Apr 14, 2013 Delivering the perfect pitch (Crain’s New York Business)
Feb 28, 2013 Last-Minute Ideas to Beat the Flexible Spending Account Deadline (Kiplinger.com)
Jan 31, 2013 Flexible Spending Accounts, Decoded (realsimple.com)
Dec 26, 2012 Use Your Flexible Spending Account Funds Before It’s Too Late (simplystated.realsimple.com)
Dec 26, 2012 13 ways to save money in 2013 (Detroit Free Press)
Dec 19, 2012 Deadline to spend health care FSA funds (San Francisco Chronicle)
Dec 19, 2012 Time's Running Out On Your Flexible Spending Account: How To Get Your Money's Worth (Hartford Courant)
Dec 16, 2012 Savage: Money strategies to use before year ends (Chicago Sun-Times)
Dec 9, 2012 Tips on how to use your Flexible Spending Account (The Miami Herald)
Nov 27, 2012 Changes to Your 2013 FSA Account (blogs.webmd.com)
Nov 19, 2012 Money still in your Flexible Spending Account? Use It or Lose It (US News)
Nov 16, 2012 Staying smart about end-of-year healthcare (LA Times)
Oct 11, 2012 FSAstore.com plots expansion course (Crain's New York Business)
Oct 10, 2012 FSAStore Raises Series B Venture Capital (VentureDeal)
Oct 10, 2012 Crain's Health Pulse Newsletter (Crain's "Health Pulse" Newsletter)
Oct 9, 2012 Venture Capital Deals (Fortune/CNNMoney.com)
Oct 9, 2012 FSAstore.com Closes More Than $2M for FSA-Eligible Products (Dow Jones Venture Wire)
Dec 5, 2011 Money Fix: Unlock your FSA funds (Newsday)
Oct 31, 2011 Some Help Getting Reimbursed for OTC Drugs (NYTimes.com)
Oct 21, 2011 Flexible-Spending Accounts: Worth the Hassle? (MarketWatch.com)
Jul 18, 2011 Make sure you're tracking your FSA account (Shopsmartmag.org)
Jul 8, 2011 Columbia Business School Proves Fertile Ground for Health-Care Startup (About.com)
Jul 5, 2011 Startup simplifies flexible spending accounts (Crain's New York)
Jun 21, 2011 After Open Enrollment: 5 Tips to Help Employees Wisely Use Their Benefits (asjonline.com)
Jun 15, 2011 The Secret to Maximizing Your Flexible Spending Account! (FlexibleSpendingAccountsonline.com)
Jun 8, 2011 Don't Leave Medical Reimbursement Money on the Table (Dailyfinance.com)
May 23, 2011 Venture Capital Deals (CNNMoney.com)
Apr, 2011 Millions of health care dollars at stake as FSA deadline looms (InsuranceQuotes.com)
Apr 2, 2011 Columbia Business School Alumni Profile: Jeremy Miller '10 on his Company, FSAStore.com, and Entrepreneurial Perseverance
Mar 14, 2011 Manhattan Startup Targets FSAs (Crain’s Health Newsletter)
Mar 11, 2011 Time is running out to spend FSA dollars (Star Tribune)
Mar 11, 2011 FSA Money: 4 Days to Use It or Lose It (DailyWorth)
Mar 9, 2011 Seven Tips for Spending Down Your FSA Fast! (Walletpop)
Mar 7, 2011 Extra Time To Cash In On Flex Spending (New York Daily News)
Feb 4, 2011 Four Steps to Maximize Your Flexible Spending Account (Walletpop)
Feb 1, 2011 FSA changes go into effect (Benefits Selling)
Jan 26, 2011 Medical savings face changes: New limits to be imposed on flexible spending accounts. Millions in tax-free money could be lost (The Atlanta Journal – Constitution)
Jan 11, 2011 Time running out on FSAs (Reuters)
Jan 3, 2011 IRS adjusts FSA debit card restriction (Benefits Selling)
Nov 29, 2010 Flexible Spending Accounts: New Rules (SmartMoney.com)
Delivering the perfect pitch
Startups flock to business-plan competitions to win cash and publicity.
By Lori Ioannou
Recognizing a need to help the 30 million U.S. consumers with flexible spending accounts manage their money, Mr. Miller came up with FSAStore.com,
a business idea pitched at Columbia's Outrageous Business Plan Competition in 2009 that won second place. The following year he entered and won the school's
Odyssey Competition. Since then, the company has closed two rounds of venture capital totaling $2.8 million and partnered with more than 100 FSA administrators.
It now has more than 50,000 customers and forecasts a tripling of its seven-digit revenues by year's end. The key to success, he says, was the unbiased feedback
from judges, potential investors and entrepreneurs who attended the event.
Visit Crain’s New York Business for more information
Last-Minute Ideas to Beat the Flexible Spending Account Deadline
If your employer gives you until March 15 to use last year’s funds, don’t leave money on the table.
By Kimberly Lankford
I still have money in my flexible-spending account from 2012, and I need to spend it by March 15, 2013, or I’ll lose it. What are some last-minute ways to spend FSA money, other than on insurance co-payments and deductibles?
A number of employers give workers until March 15, 2013, to use up the money in their flexible-spending account left over from 2012. Here are a few ideas to clear out that money from the account in the next couple of weeks. You can use the FSA money for yourself, your spouse or any dependents (including adult children up to age 26, even if they aren’t included on your health insurance policy).
kiplinger.com for more information
Flexible Spending Accounts, Decoded
Find out why you should be enrolling in your flexible spending account, and get answers to the three most common concerns.
They come with the promise of "free money," and they're a cinch to sign up for (just contact your employer's benefits department).
But the vast majority of workers—as many as four out of five, according to a recent survey—pass up their company's flexible spending accounts
(FSAs) mainly because they don't understand their tax benefits. And that's a shame: Although FSAs reduce your take-home pay, they save
you money in the long term. Those pretax dollars can cover many out-of-pocket costs, including doctor visits, child care, and transportation
expenses. Here are three of the most common worries about FSAs—and how to put them to rest.
realsimple.com for more information
Use Your Flexible Spending Account Funds Before It’s Too Late
By Ashley Tate
The frenzy of the holidays is over, so now is the time to make sure that you haven’t overlooked using all the money in your flexible spending account (FSA).
FSAs let you set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for medical expenses that your health insurance doesn’t cover (like bandages, prescription drugs, and meeting your deductible).While these accounts are great for consumers, they have a downside: If you don’t spend all your FSA money by December 31, you lose it. (Some employers offer a grace period, so check with yours for plan specifics.)
simplystated.realsimple.com for more information
13 ways to save money in 2013
By Susan Tompor
Thirteen might not be the luckiest of numbers but 2013 could be a pretty good year to get on a better financial footing — if you’re not fussy.
Now 2013 is the year I will finally use a 1991 calendar. While cleaning, I found a Laura Ashley desk calendar that was too pretty to use back then. The days of the week for 1991 match up with 2013. Now, 13 other tips for ‘13:
freep.com for more information
Deadline to spend health care FSA funds
By Kathleen Pender
Deadline alert: Many workers who have contributed to a flexible spending account for health care have until Dec. 31 to spend the money or forfeit it to their employers.
The law allows, but does not require, employers to give workers an extra 2.5 months to spend the money - or until March 15 for plan years that end Dec. 31 - and some do.
sfgate.com for more information
Time's Running Out On Your Flexible Spending Account: How To Get Your Money's Worth
By Korky Vann
By the end of the year, most of us are shopped out. But for those of us with Flexible Spending Accounts, there are more purchases to be made before Dec. 31.
Close to 35 million Americans have Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) as part of their medical benefits. (The accounts let employees set aside pre-tax money from their paychecks to spend on healthcare expenses not covered by insurance policies.) When you have a qualified health cost, you can pay for it with the pre-tax dollars in your FSA.
courant.com for more information
Savage: Money strategies to use before year ends
By TERRY SAVAGE
You’re busy with holiday shopping and parties, so you don’t give much of a thought to your finances at year end. But here are a few tips that could save you real money if you pay just a bit of attention before year-end.
Use it or lose it
You would never walk by a $10 bill lying on the sidewalk. But millions of Americans will leave an average of $138 on the table, simply by not using the total amount available in their Flexible Spending Account at work.
suntimes.com for more information
Tips on how to use your Flexible Spending Account
Most Flexible Spending Accounts have rules that all the money must be used or it will be forfeited.
By JULIE LANDRY LAVIOLETTE
By this time of year, Libby Winslow usually doesn’t have a penny left in her healthcare Flexible Spending Account. But this year, she has been so busy at her Miami accounting firm job that she has put off some annual check-ups and doctor visits. Now Winslow has $300 to $400 left of her Flexible Spending Account money to spend by year’s end, or she will lose it.
miamiherald.com for more information
Changes to Your 2013 FSA Account
By Lisa Zamosky
Flexible Spending Accounts, or FSAs, are offered as an employee benefit, and allow you to set aside pre-tax salary dollars to pay for medical expenses, such as deductibles, co-pays, dental treatment, and medical treatments not covered by insurance.
A requirement of these accounts is that you decide at the time of enrollment how much money you’ll set aside for the year. FSA money must be spent within the benefit year or the funds are forfeited. Most companies, however, do offer an extension period, which can stretch until mid-March (check with your plan administrator to learn how much time you have to exhaust your account).
As a result of the Affordable Care Act, FSAs will undergo a series of changes, some of which have already occurred, and others that are about to take effect this upcoming January.
If you still have time to decide how much money to commit to your FSA account for 2013, some of these changes should factor into your plans.
No more OTC drugs. Many people in the past have used FSA funds to purchase over-the-counter-medications, such as Tylenol or Sudafed. Starting last year, the money is no longer allowed to be used for that purpose, unless your doctor writes you a prescription.
Limits to FSA contributions: Currently, the maximum amount of money you’re allowed to set aside in your FSA has been dictated by your employer. Most cap employee contributions at a maximum of $5,000. That’s changing.
Starting in January, 2013, the health reform law will limit your contribution to $2,500 per year.
No need for preventive care costs: Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive health care services, such as annual checkups, mammograms and colonoscopies, are available to most people with no out-of-pocket costs. If you’re accustomed to factoring in the cost of these services when deciding how much to put into your FSA account, you’ll want to recalculate.
Contraceptives: The same is true of contraceptives. Although there are exceptions being made for employers with a religious affiliation, most employer health plans are now required to cover the full cost of contraceptives.
Starting in 2013, there’s no longer the need to set aside money to cover the cost of your birth control pills.
blogs.webmd.com for more information
Money Still in Your Flexible Spending Account? Use It or Lose It
Know what’s eligible for reimbursement before developing a spending plan
By SUSAN JOHNSTON
As the year draws to a close, many employees with a flexible spending account (FSA) for medical expenses will rush to the doctor or dentist to use up any remaining funds. For the uninitiated, FSAs allow employees to set aside pre-tax money to pay for qualified medical expenses, but at the end of the plan year—or two-and-a-half months into the following year, if the employer offers a grace period for FSAs—the employee forfeits any money left in the account. However, money in health savings accounts (HSAs) carries over from year to year.
money.usnews.com for more information
Staying smart about end-of-year healthcare
Keep on top of enrollment and using healthcare benefits to full advantage. Here are end-of-year tips.
By Lisa Zamosky
November is one of the most important months for health benefits. And it's now more than half over.
This month is a time of open enrollment, when many workers sign up for next year's health insurance. Deadlines are a big deal, and you don't want to miss one.
LA Times for more information
FSAstore.com plots expansion course Oct 11, 2012
New funding will make it even easier for consumers to spend those pre-tax dollars. But first the company is going on a hiring spree.
By Cara S. Trager
FSAstore.com, an e-commerce startup featuring items and medical services that can be bought using pre-tax money from flexible spending accounts, is in the midst of a whirlwind expansion fueled by investor cash.
The $2 million in second-round financing the garment district-based company snagged this summer will help boost sales and marketing. Founder and President Jeremy Miller said it's slated to "quadruple" revenue this year over 2011, though he declined to provide figures.
The company claims to be the only website exclusively stocked with FSA-eligible products, eliminating the confusion over whether an item can be reimbursed with pre-tax wages. The site's Learning Center also provides updated information about the often confusing benefit.
Mr. Miller began researching the FSA benefit as a business opportunity while pursuing an MBA at Columbia Business School. He launched the two-and-half-year-old firm a month after graduation.
The latest round of financing is helping the company ramp up. It has created an onsite calculator to help consumers estimate how much money to allocate to their accounts. The 11-employee firm has also added 400 new products, including breast-feeding supplies. Another 250 items will become available next week, bringing the firm's offerings to around 6,000 FSA-eligible products, in addition to FSA-eligible services, such as acupuncture and Lasik eye surgery.
While consumers with flexible-spending accounts can set aside pre-tax dollars to purchase health care products, a change enacted in 2011 as part of health care reform requires FSA holders to get doctors' prescriptions if they want to be reimbursed for over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol and cough syrup.
Also, FSA plans that begin next year will be capped at $2,500 per individual. Currently, there are no government limits for FSAs, although many employers limit employees contributions to $5,000, said Mr. Miller.
The firm, he said, is "actively interviewing" for a chief compliance officer, director of sales and business development, director of Internet marketing, a staff accountant and two customer service professionals. A content writer, responsible for updating the Learning Center, will join the company next week.
Originate Ventures led the $2 million second round of financing, which also included funding from previous investors Point Judith Capital and Columbia Business School Lang Fund.
Glen Bressner, managing partner at Originate Ventures, said FSAstore.com was an "authoritative voice in helping consumers understand what they can purchase and how they can use these dollars for normal, recurring purchases." He also said FSAstore.com benefits from partnerships with third-party FSA administrators that promote the site to their account holders.
Despite the limits that are going to be placed on new FSA plans in 2013, Mr. Bressner said that "there is still a fair amount of purchasing power" in consumers' hands.
Crain's New York Business
for more information
FSAStore Raises Series B Venture Capital Oct 10, 2012
New York, New York -- E-Commerce technology company FSAStore.com has secured $2 million in its second round of institutional venture capital investment.
FSAStore.com operates an online site that is exclusively stocked with FSA (Flexible Spending Account) eligible products and services.
Originate Ventures led the round, which also included Point Judith Capital Partners and others.
The company said it would use the funding to accelerate sales, marketing and development initiatives.
for more information
Crain's Health Pulse Newsletter Oct 10, 2012
At A Glance
CAPITAL: FSAstore.com, a Manhattan e-commerce site that exclusively stocks products and services that are eligible to tap Flexible Spending Accounts, closed on a second round of financing. The $2 million in new capital was led by Bethlehem, Pa.-based Originate Ventures, with money from previous investors Point Judith Capital and Columbia Business School Lang Fund, and from additional angel investors.
Crain's "Health Pulse" Newsletter
for more information
Venture Capital Deals Oct 9, 2012
By Dan Primack
FSAstore.com, a New York-based ecommerce site for flexible spending account-eligible products and services, has raised more than $2 million in second-round funding. Originate Ventures led the round, and was joined by return backers Point Judith Capital and Columbia Business School Lang Fund
for more information
FSAstore.com Closes More Than $2M for FSA-Eligible Products Oct 9, 2012
FSA Store Inc ., provider of the website FSAstore.com which sells flexible-spending-account-eligible products and services, said it closed a second round of financing of more than $2 million led by Originate Ventures, which the company plans to use for sales, marketing and development initiatives.
The round includes previous investors Point Judith Capital, the Eugene M. Lang Entrepreneurial Initiative Fund affiliated with Columbia Business School, and additional angel investors, the New York company said in a news release.
Dow Jones Venture Wire
for more information
Newsday.com Dec 5, 2011
Money Fix: Unlock your FSA funds
By CHRISTINE GIORDANO
There are plenty of ways to spend down a Flexible Spending Accounts -- the program allowing employees to pay medical and some other costs with pretax dollars -- but do it fast. If an FSA expires Dec. 31 (some expire in March), unspent money goes back to the employer.
To Start. Get your annual checkup, body scan or mammogram. Then make sure to get a "letter of medical necessity" from your doctor for any items you need, said Dr. Abbie Leibowitz, co-founder of Health Advocate Inc. Even mattress covers and air purifiers to prevent allergies may qualify, she said.
"Most people don't realize the breadth of products that are FSA-eligible . . . diaper cream, sunblock, Band-Aids," said Maria Tenaglia of FSAstore.com, which offers FSA items and calls your doctor for prescriptions when needed.
Vision and Teeth may include corrective vision surgery and contact lenses as well as dental checkups, false teeth and cleanings, according to Bart Turney, director of FSA Marketing, for SHPS, a third-party administrator of FSA accounts.
Tutoring services for learning-disabled children may qualify. Also: lead paint removal and radon remediation.
Quit It. Inpatient treatment for alcohol dependency, transportation for AA and stop-smoking programs may qualify if they are prescribed.
Aids: Hearing aids, phones for the hearing-impaired, prescription medicines, nursing care, wheelchairs and even bathroom railings may also qualify.
Always double-check with your plan administrator to see if items qualify, Leibowitz said.
for more information
NYTimes.com Oct 31, 2011
Some Help Getting Reimbursed for OTC Drugs
By ANN CARRNS
New I.R.S. rules that went into effect this year, as part of the Affordable Care Act, made it harder for consumers to have non-prescription medicines reimbursed from health-care flexible spending accounts.
To be reimbursed for over-the-counter medicines, consumers now must obtain a prescription for the items—even though a prescription isn’t required to buy them in the first place.
The change has meant that customers whose employers provide them a dedicated debit card linked to their flexible spending accounts can’t use them to buy over-the-counter items, unless they get a prescription first. They then usually have to submit the prescription along with the receipt, to obtain the reimbursement. The rules apply to medicines like allergy pills, cough syrup, antibiotic ointment or ibuprofen (insulin, however, is exempt).
Flexible spending accounts let workers set aside pre-tax dollars from their paychecks to help pay for medical needs not covered by their health insurance. (The rules also apply to health savings accounts, another tax-savings vehicle).
In some cases, if the doctor knows the patient and has been treating him or her for a while, the physician may not mind providing the patient a written prescription for an over-the-counter drug, said Dr. Glen Stream, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. In other cases, though, a doctor might want to see the patient in person before writing a prescription—which adds inconvenience and cost for the patient. “I think there is a lot of variability,” said Dr. Stream.
The whole thing has gotten so complicated that many employees appear to have given up seeking reimbursement for OTC medicines (possibly the whole point in the first place, since tax revenue increases for the government if people put less in their accounts in anticipation of not using that extra money for OTC medications).
Aon Hewitt, a large administrator of flexible spending accounts, has seen a 90 percent drop in requests for reimbursement for OTC items, says Craig Rosenberg, the firm’s national practice leader for health benefits administration. (The full impact won’t be entirely clear until after the end of the year, however, because some employees — especially those who don’t have dedicated FSA debit cards — save up their receipts and submit them all at once for reimbursement, and there’s usually a grace period after the end of the calendar year.)
FSAStore.com, an online store that sells only FSA-eligible items, has seen its sales of items affected by the eligibility change plummet because of the hassle of getting a prescription, said Maria Tenaglia, a spokeswoman for the FSAStore.com. (She said the site’s overall sales remain strong overall, however, since thousands of other OTC items, like blood pressure kits, still don’t require a prescription.)
To address the problem, FSAStore.com is offering a way to reduce the reimbursement hassle for patients. Customers with FSA debit cards can shop as usual at the online store, Ms. Tenaglia said. When they go to checkout, FSAStore.com will automatically flag items that now require a prescription.
If the customer provides their doctor’s contact information, fsastore.com has teamed up with Wellpartner, a pharmacy services firm, to contact the physician’s office to obtain the prescription for processing. That way, the patient doesn’t have to deal with any paperwork. (A sample of the form sent to doctors’ offices notes that the patient is requesting a prescription for an over-the-counter item for FSA purposes). A request from Wellpartner, Ms. Tenaglia said in an e-mail, is no different from a request from a retail pharmacy: “They are experienced in communicating with physicians on pharmacy fulfillment.” She added that so far there have been “no issues” with the service.
If customers prefer, they can call the doctor themselves and have the prescription faxed or e-mailed. (The option to have FSAStore.com call your doctors isn’t available, though, if you lack a dedicated FSA debit card; in that case, you have to pay for the items, then submit a receipt and prescription manually to your claims administrator).
You can read more about the service here.
Have you tried to obtain reimbursement for OTC medicine? What was your experience?
for more information
ShopSmart July 18, 2011
Make sure you're tracking your FSA account
By Sandra Gordon
The middle of the year is a good time to step back and take stock of where you and your finances are so you will have a sense of where you’ll end up. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), for instance, which lets you set aside pre-tax dollars from your paycheck to spend on healthcare expenses—from bandages to smoking-cessation products to co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance—that aren’t covered by your insurance policy, it’s a good time to check in on it.
And if you have trouble, like I do, figuring out what products count toward my FSA money, check out fsastore.com. The e-commerce site is stocked exclusively with products that are FSA-eligible, which takes the guesswork out of figuring that out for yourself.
As you may know, FSAs are use-it-or-lose it accounts. You have to use all the funds you set aside for the account, which is up to $5,000 in most states, each year. FSAstore.com estimates that consumers collectively forfeited over $400 million back to employers in 2010 because they didn’t deplete their FSAs. Ouch! The FSAstore.com can help you avoid leaving money on the table. Besides the convenience of shopping online, you can also use it as a benchmark for determining what’s FSA eligible, even if you ultimately decide to shop at your corner drugstore or elsewhere on the Web because you’ve found a better deal.
It’s a reference for FSA-eligible services as well. According to the site, acupuncture and LASIK services are reimbursable by FSA, for example, but acid peels aren’t. Its “Learning Center” can also answer common questions you may have about FSAs, such as how much you should put into your account each year. The answer, as you might expect, depends on how much you’ll spend on health costs in the coming year so do the math, penciling out your possible FSA-eligible medical expenses, and use your FSA account whenever possible.
Visit http://www.shopsmartmag.org/2011/07/make-sure-youre-tracking-your-fsa-account.html for more information
About.com July 8, 2011
Columbia Business School Proves Fertile Ground for Health-Care Startup
Leveraging University Resources to Get Out of the Gates Fast
By Mitchell York
Some people go to business school to get their ticket punched before heading to Wall Street or a big accounting firm. Others go with something more specific in mind -- as Jeremy Miller did.
Miller, 32, graduated from Columbia Business School (full disclosure -- so did I) in May 2010, but it's how he entered the school that's interesting. For the previous eight years, Miller worked as operations manager for Gehry Technologies Inc., the unit of mega-architect Frank Gehry's company that specializes in 3D architectural modeling. Miller handled a variety of responsibilities, including IT, HR and finance. As part of his job, he created a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan for the company. He found during the process of setting up the plan that participants were confused about how to use their plans, and he started thinking about how the FSA process could be more efficient. That led to contemplating doing his own startup, perhaps having something to do with FSA plans. He then applied to Columbia's MBA program to get some entrepreneurial training.
What Miller got was more than training.
"I embraced the school and took all they were offering," Miller said. The school's entrepreneurship program incubated the startup he conceived while an MBA student, FSAStore.com, granting it $25,000 in seed capital. That's not a lot of money, admittedly. But "it was the best spent money we had. We did a lot with it." That included attending a conference of FSA administrators (companies that help employers set up FSA programs for their workers) and building its first website. Miller then secured the company's first angel investor round of financing from Opal Moon LLC., which found out about the company through the school's Entrepreneurial Greenhouse Program, And in May 2011, the company received $800,000 in venture capital financing from Point Judith Capital.
Miller said 35 million Americans are covered by flexible spending accounts, which allow them to purchase thousands of healthcare products and services with pre-tax income. The inefficiency in the FSA model is that the accounts are use-it-or-lose-it: when the funds are not used by year-end they are usually forfeited back to employers. This amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars a year that consumers leave on the table -- $400 million in 2010 alone, Miller estimates.
The 8-employee company has about 5,000 registered users so far. The fly in the ointment now, so to speak, is being involved in a fast-changing part of the health care delivery market. In 2013, there will be a cap of $2500 on FSAs, compared with the current system of letting employers set their own cap. FSAStore.com helps its customers keep abreast of the changing landscape with extensive FAQs.
In addition to the grants and investments from Columbia, Miller also admits to hanging around after graduating and squatting in an unused conference room in Warren Hall -- and even to sneaking a few meals when food was free on Fridays. He stayed until they disconnected the phone line he was using. Now the company has offices in midtown Manhattan.
Visit http://entrepreneurs.about.com/od/entrepreneursinaction/a/Columbia-Business-School-Proves-Fertile-Ground-For-Startup.htm for more information
Crain's new york business July 5, 2011
Startup simplifies flexible spending accounts
By Cara S. Trager
Jeremy Miller’s research into flexible spending accounts drove him to make FSAs the centerpiece of his M.B.A. studies at Columbia University’s business school five years ago. FSAs allow workers to put aside pretax money from their wages each year to pay for health care products and services not covered by insurance policies.
Last year, Mr. Miller decided to capitalize on what he learned, launching FSAStore.com, an e-commerce site in Manhattan devoted solely to FSA-eligible items and services. The online hub features thousands of FSA-eligible products that it ships to customers within two to three days. It also lists a roster of 300,000 health care professionals, from acupuncturists to dentists, indicating which of their services are and aren’t FSA-eligible.
With 35 million Americans covered by flexible spending accounts—in which they lose money they don’t use by the end of the year, and thus are eager to drain—investors are paying attention. FSAStore.com garnered $800,000 in venture financing last May from an investor group led by Point Judith Capital, after securing about $125,000 in startup capital, including $60,000 from Menlo Park, Calif.-based angel investment fund Opal Moon, $25,000 from Columbia’s Eugene M. Lang Entrepreneurial Initiative Fund, and the remainder from family and friends.
David Martirano, co-founder and general partner at Point Judith Capital, said the “very confusing” environment surrounding FSAs provides FSAStore.com—as an exclusive purveyor of FSA-eligible products—with a “huge opportunity” to educate its customers and help them manage their FSAs.
FSAStore.com has so far attracted more than 5,000 registered users across the country, including 500 in New York. To help consumers make the most of the site, Mr. Miller has posted up-to-the-minute details about rules governing the spending benefit, including a thorny law that was enacted this year as part of health care reform. It requires FSA holders to get doctors’ prescriptions for over-the-counter items like Tylenol for reimbursement, and it makes paying for these OTC products with a debit card a multi-step process.
Therein lies a key challenge confronting the seven-employee firm—government regulation that may discourage people from using FSAs. “It seems that government is slowly, or not so slowly, strangling [Mr. Miller’s] business,” said Ira Davidson, director of Pace University’s Small Business Development Center.
Adding insult to injury, the new health care law places a $2,500 cap on health care FSAs in 2013; currently, employers are allowed to set the maximum annual savings for workers. According to J.D. Piro, principal and national practice leader with Aon Hewitt’s Health & Benefits Legal Practice, the average FSA held $1,460 last year, and account holders are tapping them to the greatest extent possible. “People are tending to cash out these accounts” because of the recession, he said.
Since last November, FSAStore.com has tweaked its website at least a half-dozen times to help account holders navigate the complicated benefit. It has, for instance, added color-coded icons that distinguish between FSA-eligible items and FSA-eligible medications that require a prescription, as well as a feature that enables customers to purchase both prescription and nonprescription items in one transaction but to pay with different FSA-permissible cards. “We cater to the account holder, making it simpler to use these accounts,” said Mr. Miller.
To keep his technology on the cutting edge, Mr. Miller recruited Azar Gurbanov, a classmate from Columbia who co-founded a telecom company in his native Azerbaijan, as a business partner and the firm’s chief operating officer.
So far, the startup has benefited from revenue-sharing partnerships with FSA-compliance administration companies that promote FSAStore.com to their account holders. FSAStore.com is on track to generate seven-digit revenues this year from both selling products and carrying ads for services such as Lasik surgery on its site, said Mr. Miller. To keep growing, however, he faces a formidable challenge: Continuing to outrun government regulations.
Visit http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20110705/SMALLBIZ/110639998 for more information
Agent's Sales Journal
After Open Enrollment: 5 Tips to Help Employees Wisely Use Their Benefits
By Nancy Sansom
Open Enrollment is one of the busiest times of the year for HR professionals and often an overwhelming period for employees, too. During this time, employees are inundated with complex benefits information, urged to complete the enrollment process on deadline and then reengaged if any information is inaccurately submitted. Worse, after receiving an abundance of information during Open Enrollment, employees are often left on their own to decipher how to properly use their elected benefits package over the coming year.
According to a report by Hewitt Associates, employer health care costs are expected to increase 9 percent in 2011, the highest level in five years. As health care costs continue to increase, both agents and employers must play an active role in reducing overall benefit expenses. Encouraging employees to make financially smart decisions while promoting a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce both employee and employer health care expenses.
Communication is key
Maintaining constant communication with employees after Open Enrollment is a crucial and sometimes overlooked step in the benefits process. Making smart decisions requires education. Communicating these top five tips to employees throughout the entire year will reduce out-of-pocket expenses, resulting in satisfied and healthier employees.
1. Understand your benefits coverage.
After employees complete Open Enrollment, they need to know how to use their benefits over the coming year. According to MetLife's 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends, only 45 percent of all employees find their benefits materials to be clear and comprehensive. Employees cannot make smart health care decisions if they do not understand their benefits.
Agents and employers must consistently communicate plan details with clear, concise information throughout the year. Inform employees which doctors are in-network and out-of-network, how to enroll in prescription drug plans and how much medical treatments will cost. For example, reminding employees that emergency room visits are very costly and should only be used in an emergency will help them decide if an urgent care doctor is a better choice for their emergency care. Proactively educating employees about their plan details will reduce employee out-of-pocket expenses.
2. Use FSA and HSA contributions.
According to FSAStore.com, more than 35 million consumers contribute to flexible spending accounts and yet almost $450 million goes unused each year. Unused contributions are lost if not spent by year-end. Reminding employees throughout the year that more than 24,000 products, ranging from family planning to first aid, that are eligible for FSA funding will help reduce this number.
Unlike FSAs, health savings accounts do not expire and the funds belong to the employee. HSAs provide a tax-advantage to employees enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan and allow employees to accumulate funds from year to year. Remind employees that they can utilize these funds for all qualified expenses.
Enroll in wellness programs.
Participating in a wellness program helps employees manage their health and ultimately reduce their out-of-pocket expenses by living a fit lifestyle. Approximately 80–90 percent of large corporations in the U.S. offer employees a wellness program, according to the Wellness Councils of America. Providing a wellness program, and even rewarding employees for their participation, helps employers reach overall health and fitness goals. Subsidized gym memberships, for example, are a great option. If your company does not offer wellness programs, encourage employees to seek healthy lifestyle options outside the workplace.
Participate in preventive care.
An August 2010 survey by the Midwest Business Group on Health found that 88 percent of workers lack an understanding of the value of preventive services and 56 percent of workers say they have "no motivation to stay healthy." It is imperative for employees to understand the importance of preventive care and to participate in all preventive services offered to them. Preventive services such as checkups, vaccines, dental cleanings and mammograms can detect or prevent early health issues, saving employees from incurring future medical expenses and potentially saving their lives. Provide regular reminders that encourage employees to routinely use preventive care services.
Know your yearly medical expenses.
Encourage employees to be aware of how much they spend during the year on medical expenses. Knowing their total yearly expenses will help employees choose a benefits plan in the next enrollment period that best meets the employee’s specific needs. Remind employees that medical costs aren’t just doctor visit fees, but also include prescription drugs, certain over the counter medications and medical supplies.
Even after Open Enrollment, employees rely on HR administrators to answer questions regarding benefits coverage. Using clear, concise messaging to consistently educate employees will give them the knowledge and confidence they need to take control of their health and ultimately reduce their own out-of-pocket expenses.
Technology has simplified the process of educating and communicating with employees. Agents and employers can easily streamline employee communications into one convenient place, use videos for consistent messaging or schedule notifications to land directly into an employee’s inbox.
Maintaining open communication with employees after the Open Enrollment period is a necessity for educating employees about plan benefits, encouraging healthy lifestyles and promoting wise spending.
FlexibleSpendingAccountsonline June 15, 2011
The Secret to Maximizing Your Flexible Spending Account!
Did you know that 30 million Americans who have paid into their FSAs end up leaving about $450 million of tax-free money unclaimed by the time the deadline rolls around. That’s what Jeremy Miller says, founder and president of FSAStore.com, a one-stop shopping site for FSA-friendly products and services. Remember, when it comes to flexible spending accounts (FSAs), you use it or lose it.
And where does all that unspent money go? Not in your wallet, but back to the people who really don’t need it…your employers.
So how do you minimize your losses and maximize your flexible spending account?
Find out whats covered.
Ok, so you may need a prescription for over-the-counter drugs now but there are plenty of other things for which you can get reimbursed. According to Miller, “There are 24,000 products that fit the FSA requirements, from first aid to family planning, and FSAStore sells 4,000 of those products.” Allocating less than last year because of the prescription drug change is a mistake.
Know Your Deadline.
A large majority companies require that you deplete your FSA account by the end of the year although there are some companies that provide you with another 3 month grace period. That means you have until March to take care of yourself and your family with 2010 dollars. Make sure you know what your company does.
Turnaround the paperwork ASAP.
Even if your company provides you with a 3 month extension, the date to file your reimbursement requests may be sooner. Don’t wait! Take a look at your annual receipts. Co-pays or other relevant medical fees are eligible for reimbursement. Get them in…now!
Check, double-check, and (okay) triple-check.
Know your balance and the deductions against it. Treat it like a checking account that you want to get to a zero balance.
DailyFinance June 8, 2011
Don't Leave Medical Reimbursement Money on the Table
By Catherine New
Bridget Queally's manila envelope taunted her. It was overflowing with medical insurance claims, bills, receipts and other health-care related paperwork. Every month, it seemed to get a little thicker as she postponed dealing with it.
"I left it to the very last minute every year because I just didn't want to look at it," the mother of three teenagers told DailyFinance. "I knew that I was leaving money on the table and I felt badly." Like many women, Queally, 47, manages her family's household budget, including all the paperwork associated with medical care from at least six different doctors, both in- and out-of-network.
Queally is far from the only person overwhelmed by dealing with medical insurance administration. Now, a new company, Off Your Desk (offyourdesk.net), is offering to solve the problem for them.
Queally signed up for the service last November, using the company's pre-paid envelopes to send in her paperwork to a personal representative. Today, Queally says she has "complete confidence" she is getting the money she is due. Off Your Desk says on average, they get $2,200 per client in reimbursements.
Part concierge-service and part accountant, the claims specialists of Off Your Desk manage your health-care related paperwork and recover all the money you're due from your insurance company or special savings accounts. For people who just want to get current on their insurance paperwork, the company offers a one-time service for $295. For those who want someone to handle on-going claims and reimbursements, the cost is $65 per month.
Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Lost
Off Your Desk is one of a growing number of third-party companies focused on helping consumers maximize their medical dollars, whether recouping insurance money or spending for specialized pre-tax accounts. Every year, an American family of four leaves an average of $3,000 on the table that they are owed by the health insurance companies, estimates Off Your Desk.
FSAStore.com is another company aimed at helping consumers make the most of their flexible spending accounts. Jeremy Miller, founder of FSAStore, says there is a lot of confusion over what is and is not allowed under FSA guidelines. It's estimated that another $400 million was forfeited in flexible spending accounts by consumers last year, according to Miller's company. The store only sells approved products so that consumers don't let these tax-free dollars go to waste.
Why are Americans walking away from so much money? For starters, the insurance industry mis-processes 20% of claims, totaling around $15.5 billion every year, according to the American Medical Association. Another factor is the shift by employers to high-deductible plans that leave an increasing number of consumers paying out-of-pocket, and who must file for reimbursement for out-of-network benefits or pay for care with a tax-advantaged savings account. Complicated forms, timing issues relating to claim-filing, and lengthy appeals processes aggravate the problem. Changing rules over what products do and do not qualify for spending with special savings accounts continue add more confusion for reimbursements.
"One of the biggest issues we see is that customers just don't understand how their plan still plays a part if they go out of network," says Carrie McLean, a consumer specialist with ehealthinsurance.com. The result is that many people would rather walk away from money than deal with the headache of sorting out the insurance paperwork and submitting receipts.
McLean offers these tips to help save you money before you get a bill that surprises you.
- Check your plan and see what you are and are not covered for.
- Don't assume that a referral doctor is in network. Call the referral and ask if they are a "preferred provider" for a specific network.
- Even if a doctor is listed on the literature from your insurance, call the office and confirm that you are covered.
- If you really like an out-of-network doctor, ask your MD if he or she is willing to join your network.
- Double-check your explanation of benefits. Be proactive in making sure that the codes and services match up.
Visit http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/06/08/dont-leave-medical-reimbursement-money-on-the-table/ for more information
CNNMoney.com (New York) - May 23, 2011
Venture Capital Deals
By Dan Primack
FSAStore.com, a New York-based online ecommerce site for flexible spending account-eligible products and services, has raised $800,000 in Series A funding. Point Judith Capital led the round, and was joined by Columbia Business School Lang Fund, Opal Moon LLC and individual angels.
Visit http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2011/05/23/venture-capital-deals-2/ for more information.
InsuranceQuotes.com (New York) - April, 2011
Millions of health care dollars at stake as FSA deadline looms
By John Egan
Health insurance consumers who deposited money into flexible spending accounts (FSAs) in 2010 could wind up wasting up to $400 million in 2011 if they don’t use the funds before an impending deadline, according to a projection from FSAStore.com.
Millions of U.S. workers face a March 15 “use it or lose it” deadline for FSA money they accrued in 2010, FSAStore.com says. Many employers offer that grace period each year so their employees aren’t forced to spend the money within a one-year window that typically closes Dec. 31.
Millions of Americans could be throwing away money if they don’t meet a March 15, 2011, deadline for their spending funds in their flexible spending accounts (FSAs).
On average, an FSA participant forfeits $86 in unused funds each year, according to WageWorks Inc., a manager of FSA benefits programs.
Generally, about 80 percent of employers’ health plans allow a grace period. The IRS-approved grace period took effect in 2005.
More than 30 million American consumers — including account holders and family members — are covered by FSAs, which pay for tens of thousands of health care products and services with tax-free dollars. More than 15 million FSAs are active in the United States.
“Millions of dollars are wasted each year simply because consumers do not deplete the funds in their FSAs,” says Jeremy Miller, FSAStore.com’s founder and president.
FSAStore.com based its projection on the average amount of unused money in an FSA account — roughly 2 percent to 4 percent of the total. In 2010, the average FSA contained $1,500. FSAStore.com used the lower 2 percent figure to come up with its projection.
Jody Dietel, chief compliance officer at WageWorks, offers these tips for FSA account holders who are staring at the March 15 spending deadline:
- Review your health care expenses to be sure you’ve submitted all of your receipts. Often, this simple exercise of getting your paperwork in order depletes the money in your FSA.
- Make sure you’re up to date on preventive care, tests, dental checkups, vision checkups and immunizations. In some cases, these services already may be fully covered by insurance, “but this is a good place to start,” Dietel says.
- Take an inventory of health care supplies. For instance, do you need to stock up on contact lenses or contact lens supplies? Keep in mind that as of January 2011, nearly all over-the-counter medication purchases require a prescription before they can be covered by FSA funds. Previously, the federal government allowed all FSA over-the-counter medication purchases without a prescription.
Visit http://www.insurancequotes.com/health-insurance-fsa-deadline/ for more information.
Columbia Business School Alumni Profile (New York)- Apr 2, 2011 Saturday
Alumni Profile: Jeremy Miller '10 on his Company, FSAStore.com, and Entrepreneurial Perseverance
Jeremy Miller '10 on his Company, FSAStore.com, and the drive to succeed.
Tell us about FSAStore.com and what have you been up to post graduation?
FSAStore.com's mission is to promote and encourage the use of Flexible Spending Accounts in a way that makes it easy for the average participant to understand, spend, and use their own FSA funds. Given our mission to makes things simple, we decided to carry only those products and services that you can buy with your FSA.
And because we get this question so often, let me detail exactly what an FSA is. An FSA allows employees to put aside tax free money to spend on medical expenses throughout the year, and can be used to cover many common expenses such as over-the-counter supplies, glasses, contacts, doctor visits, dental work, and more.
FSAStore.com launched right after graduation and along with my amazing business partner Azar Gurbanov '10 and our stellar team, we have been working on it full time ever since.
What is unique about your site?
We are the only standalone site catering to people with Flexible Spending Accounts and the only site exclusively carrying products and services for purchase with your FSA funds. Therefore we greatly simplify the process, and the headaches, that most people associate with these accounts, including “what can I use my FSA for!?” We also have formed several partnerships with FSA administrators that market our site as a service to their FSA participants.
What has been your biggest “A-Ha!” moment to date? How did it change your business?
There was a lot of fear around the impact of healthcare legislation but one of our strongest months was after this took place and sales and traffic has been strong despite the change in FSA accounts so I think it helped our business to realize that we were really filling a need. The icing on the cake was when we noticed how many orders were coming from New York City - a place that has a drugstore on every corner. Really, each day is full of firsts and aha moments, constantly trying to learn and do better each time.
How has the Healthcare debate impacted your business? What has been the biggest change?
We originally thought the healthcare changes would topple the business. The fact that half the products we sell now require a prescription for reimbursement kept us up at night, strategizing what to do in midst of this change. We quickly realized that our value proposition didn’t change based on what might happen in healthcare. We make the education process for consumers with FSAs simple, while also making it easy for them to shop. There are still thousands of products that do not require this prescription to be reimbursed and with all the twists and turns surrounding the healthcare debate, the information our site provides is more important than ever.
What improvements would you like to see?
We are constantly improving our site and offerings. We have several projects that we are working on that I can’t detail at the moment, but that seek to further cement the relationship between our site and our users.
How do you promote your business?
Our administrator partners have been key promoters of our business; they are big fans of the site and they especially appreciate the ease of use for FSA account holders.
How have the classes [you took] at Columbia Business School shaped your business/management approach?
The progression of the Entrepreneurship program from Murray Low’s Intro to Venturing through Cliff Schorer and Brendan Burn’s Launching New Ventures and the Greenhouse Program really enabled me to focus and develop my business idea throughout my time at Columbia Business School.
Managerial Negotiations with Ann Bartel was one of my favorites as it taught skills that I use every day. Michael Preston’s Managing the Growing Company had a great focus on the importance of keeping growth in mind at every stage and in every aspect of the company. I found the most enriching class from a personal standpoint was Personal Leadership and Success with Hitendra Wadhwa.
The Columbia Alumni Connection: How have you used it?
The Columbia Alumni Connection has been instrumental in the formation and growth of my business. I started reaching out to Alumni at Columbia before I even began my MBA program. I was able to connect with recent entrepreneurs, get advice on classes, and discuss different business approaches. I also found prospective clients through the Columbia network.
Current classmates also figured into my network, one of our initial investors was in my learning team, and my business partner, COO Azar Gurbanov '10, was in my Cluster (X!).
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
I see us thriving in this competitive, low margin industry. We have focused on a concrete need in the marketplace and will not stop until we addressed it.
What advice would you give to a graduating Columbia student with entrepreneurial aspirations?
My motto when I started Columbia and went through the Entrepreneurship Program was the good ol’ saying, “Just Do It.” I really took it to heart - it was my password for all of my Columbia logins!
So for a graduating student with entrepreneurial aspirations I would simply say now is the time to just do it. A lot of us look at the opportunity costs of giving up the sure thing with something that might not pay the bills immediately. You’ve just got to go for it.
And also I think after you go for it, persistence is key. Stick with it, don’t give up, and follow through with what you said you would do, pour your heart into it remembering the other important things you have to do to balance it all.
But I would also say don’t expect it to be easy. I’ve learned to celebrate successes along the way, because the work is long, the end goal is undetermined, and each day is never the same.
Please Visit Alumni Profile Jeremy Miller on his Company FSAStore.com and Entrepreneurial Perseverance for more information.
Crain’s Health Newsletter- Mar 14, 2011 Monday
Manhattan Startup Targets FSAs
The grace period on flexible spending accounts for 2010 medical purchases ends March 15, and millions of dollars may be forfeited by consumers if they do not deplete the funds in these use-it-or-lose-it accounts. One New York City entrepreneur has based a business model on FSAs, which pay for health expenses using pretax dollars funded by payroll deductions. Columbia Business School grad Jeremy Miller has created fsastore.com, a site that lets customers purchase goods allowed under federal FSA regulations. But health care reform changed the rules for FSAs—and put a dent in the business plan. Most OTC purchases are no longer allowed without a prescription from a doctor. The site plans to add an online pharmacy in 2011 and will continue selling OTC remedies, but will make clear which products are eligible for purchase with FSA funds.
Visit http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20110314/PULSE/110319959 for more information.
Startribune.com- Mar 11, 2011 Friday
Time is running out to spend FSA dollars
By Kara McGuire
Add: "Deplete the flexible spending account" to your weekend "to-do" list. Tuesday is absolutely the last day to spend all of the pre-tax money you set aside from last year's paycheck to lessen your out-of-pocket cost for some medical expenses.
Because any cash that's not spent by then is forfeited, many consumers head to the drug store at this time of year to stock up the medicine cabinet. However, changes included in the health care legislation passed last year have increased restrictions on what you can and can't buy with your flexible spending account cash.
You used to be able to buy cold medicines, pain relievers and a host of other over-the-counter products. But on January 1, many over-the-counter medicines became ineligible for purchase using flexible spending account dollars without a doctor's prescription.
FSAStore.com has a complete list of products that do and don't need a doctor's note.The site estimates that $400 million will be lost in these use-it-or-lose-it accounts this year. Unspent money goes to your employer.
Savesmartspendhealthy.com is also chock full of ideas for using this cash, including stories from real people about how the accounts have saved them money.
If you don't currently have an account and would like to better understand how much money you could save if you sign up for one during your company's open enrollment period, check out this FSA calculator.
Visit http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/yourmoney/blogs/117828618.html for more information.
DailyWorth- Mar 11, 2011 Friday
FSA Money: 4 Days to Use It or Lose It
By MP Dunleavey
The grace period for spending down the 2010 funds in your flexible-spending account is up on March 15.
Remember, whether you allocated $200 or $2,000 to be saved in your FSA last year, those are use-it-or-lose-it funds.
Not every company provides a grace period. If yours does, you have until Tuesday to spend that pre-tax money. (Also, be sure check what your company’s deadline is for filing FSA expenses.)
The good news: Thanks to changes in healthcare legislation, you can use your FSA money for a much wider range of products and services.
And many retailers are eager to help you spend that money (and get reimbursed, of course). Depending on where you shop, ask about qualified expenses.
There’s even a new FSAstore online, that specializes in products that now qualify under flexible-spending account rules. Act fast. What are you going to buy with your FSA money?
Visit http://www.dailyworth.com/blog/689-fsa-money-4-days-to-use-it-or-lose-it for more information.
Walletpop (New York)- Mar 9, 2011 Wednesday
Seven Tips for Spending Down Your FSA Fast!
By Lan N. Nguyen
March 15 is just six days away, and, for many, that's the last day they'll be able to spend down their 2010 flexible spending account (FSA) -- pre-tax dollars set aside for medical or dependent care expenses. If you're one of those who want to use it and not lose it, here are seven tips on how to blow your money in a short time:
- Stockpile Supplies
Getting over-the-counter medicine may require a prescription these days, but if you're visiting the doctor before March 15, ask your physician for several months' supply of the OTC drugs that you and your family often use. However, be aware that some doctors may be reluctant to do so because of malpractice concerns, while others may charge a prescription fee as high as $10 for each Rx.
If your physician doesn't want to help stock your medicine cabinets until the kids are grown, there are lots of other items that can take a big bite out of your FSA account, including prescription sunglasses, contact lenses for a year or more, First Aid kits for every place your kids are, breast pumps and durable medical equipment such as a wheelchair.
"There are 1,500 products you can buy that are FSA approved which don't require a prescription," Jeremy Miller, founder of FSAstore.com, told WalletPop in a telephone interview. "Popular items on our site right now are diagnostic equipment, thermometers, first aid kits, family planning and heating pads."
- Meet With Your Health Team
Getting a doctor's appointment in five days may be impossible, but seeing other medical staff may be easier. Human resources expert Steve Kane recommends seeing the dentist, your chiropractor, your physical therapist and any other medical personnel you think you need to see.
Now is also the time to sign up for medical programs if you're interested in losing weight or kicking your drug, alcohol or tobacco habits. Take advantage of that gym membership discount, as long as you have a doctor's note.
- Consider Prepaying
In some cases, you can prepay for a program or treatment. "If you get services from an institution, you can prepay them as long as they take a check or credit card," Kane told WalletPop in a telephone interview. "If you have a special ed program or after-school care for your disabled child, anything like that, it should be reimbursable."
- No Expense Is Too Small
One of the biggest reimbursable items we tend to overlook is travel expenses for all those medical visits, said Kane. With gasoline over $3.50 a gallon nowadays, those miles add up. Comb through your receipts and also look for items like parking stubs, train fare and cab fare.
- Round Up All Expenses
That means not just the expenses you incurred but also those of your dependents. Thanks to the new health care law, adult children up to age 26 covered by their parents' health insurance can qualify as dependents on your FSAs. Ask your FSA administrator to clarify.
- Spend It Now or Lose It
They really mean it when they say, "use it or lose it." Having a long shopping list or a fistful of prescriptions doesn't help. Ordering something online doesn't help. You must have paid for it by the deadline for it to count.
- Double-Check Your Account
So you've spent you money -- all is well, right? Not necessarily. When you seek reimbursement or use your FSA Debit card, make sure the money you've spent is taken from your 2010 account and not this year's, warned Miller. Snafus happen. You just don't want to be paying for someone else's mistake.
Visit http://www.walletpop.com/2011/03/09/seven-tips-for-spending-down-your-fsa-fast/ for more information
Daily News (New York)-Mar 7, 2011 Monday
Extra Time To Cash In On Flex Spending
By Phyllis Furman Daily News Business Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Section: YOUR MONEY; pg. 26
You may have more time than you think to use up your flex spending dollars.
Many employers offer a grace period during which eligible health care expenses can be incurred and reimbursed.
That means you might not have to forfeit money left over from last year in your tax-advantaged flexible spending account.
If you're entitled to extra time and you have dollars remaining, now's the time to rush out and buy items such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and bandages, or try to schedule immediate appointments with doctors and dentists. Health expenses not covered by insurance, including co-pays, also are eligible.
The government-mandated deadline is March 15.
"A lot of people don't know they have this grace period," said Jeremy Miller, president of FSAStore.com, which sells products eligible for flex spending reimbursement.
If you don't spend this money, consider it gone. As much as $400 million of hard-earned dollars will be left behind, FSAStore.com estimated.
Anyone with a flex spending account should take note of a big change that took effect Jan. 1: As a result of the health care overhaul, applications for reimbursement of over-the-counter drugs require a prescription, with the exception of insulin.
"It's an extra step you need to take," said Barry Schilmeister, a partner at human resources consulting firm Mercer. "If you want to buy Claritin-D over the counter and you want to pay for it with 2010 flex spending funds, you need a prescription."
With flex spending accounts, employees voluntarily set aside pretax dollars from their salary. They designate how much they want to contribute and their employers periodically deduct contributions from their paychecks.
The accounts are popular: Nearly 90% of New York-area companies with 500 or more employees offered them in 2010, according to Mercer. Nearly 25% of eligible employees took part, with an average contribution of $1,426. The participation rate may be low because some workers say they can't afford to contribute, despite the tax break.
The savings can be meaningful. A middle-income New York City taxpayer who contributes $2,000 would save about $700.
The IRS does not limit the size of flexible spending accounts, leaving that decision to employers. But another big change is coming: As of Jan. 1, 2013, accounts will be limited to $2,500 a year.
Walletpop (New York)- Feb 4, 2011 Friday
Four Steps to Maximize Your Flexible Spending Account
By Lan N. Nguyen
When it comes to flexible spending accounts (FSAs), you use it or lose it. That's meant the 30 million Americans who have paid into their FSAs have left about $450 million of tax-free money unclaimed by the time the deadline rolls around, according to Jeremy Miller, founder and president of FSAStore.com, a one-stop shopping site for FSA-friendly products and services.
Most of this unspent cash goes back to those who don't exactly need it: your employers. To make sure you're making the most of your FSA, here are four steps you can take.
1. Find Out the Exact Deadline
Most companies require that you spend down your account by Dec. 31. However, some companies offer a grace period of the first three months of this year. That means you have until March to take care of yourself and your family with 2010 dollars.
2. Get the Paperwork in ASAP
While the grace period may take you into the middle of March, the date to file all your reimbursement requests may be sooner, warned Josh King, general counsel at Avvo.com, a free website that rates and profiles doctors and lawyers, in an email interview with WalletPop.
Pore over your health insurance claims. "Are there any co-pays, co-insurance payments or the like that you haven't gotten reimbursed from your FSA?" King asked. "Now's the time!"
3. Check and Double Check
Your balance, that is, whether your deadline is March or December, recommended Bob Meighan, vice president and CPA at TurboTax. In addition, keep track of what you're claiming so you're not one of those consumers who contributes to the $450 million left unspent.
4. Know What Gets Covered
You may need a prescription for over-the-counter drugs nowadays, but there are still many other things you can get reimbursed for. Setting aside less than last year because of this change is a mistake, said Miller. "There are 24,000 products that fit the FSA requirements, from first aid to family planning, and FSAStore sells 4,000 of those products."
Many FSAs will also cover travel expenses for a doctor's visit, contact lenses, dental check-ups and programs to stop smoking, drinking or taking drugs.
Check out our story in November for even more items covered by your FSA.
Visithttp://www.walletpop.com/2011/02/04/four-steps-to-maximize-your-flexible-spending-account/ for more information
Benefits Selling- Feb 1, 2011 Tuesday
FSA changes go into effect
By Jenny Ivy
Although many fought hard for repeal, the Jan. 1 effective date for new rules on medical savings plans quickly passed with little change to how and when the reform law would be implemented.
Grassroots organization Save Flexible Spending Plans was one of several groups that pushed for a repeal of the restriction on over-the-counter medications that now need a prescription to be purchased through an FSA, HSA or similar account.
Retailers and pharmacies resonated the opposition, and asked Congress to at least push back the law’s date, so consumers would have time to digest it and systems could be updated – after Jan. 15, customers no longer would be able to purchase OTC drugs with an account debit card, and would have to front the money and try later for reimbursement. They could still use that card for other eligible medical expenses such as first-aid supplies.
By late December – a week before the law took effect – the IRS backtracked on its debit card provision. Consumers with an FSA or HRA can buy OTC medications using their card, but they’ll need to present a prescription at the pharmacy, or make it available to a Web-based or mail-order vendor.
Those with HSA or MSA accounts who spend money inappropriately will not only owe taxes on the purchase, but will get hit with a 20 percent penalty.
According to FSAstore.com, there are still close to 30,000 products that remain FSA-eligible. The next major reform measure to hit flexible savings accounts will happen in 2013, when contributions will be capped at $2,500.
Visit http://www.benefitssellingmag.com/Issues/2011/February-2011/Pages/FSA-changes-go-into-effect.aspx for more information
The Atlanta Journal – Constitution (ATJC)- Jan 26, 2011 Wednesday
Medical savings face changes: New limits to be imposed on flexible spending accounts. Millions in tax-free money could be lost.
By Misty Williams Section: Main D1
Use it or lose it.
That's the message for health care consumers who could collectively forfeit millions of dollars left over in flexible spending accounts, which generally don't roll over into the new year, although some employees may have grace periods, benefit experts say.
Meanwhile, fans of the medical savings tool --- which allows people to sock away tax-free money for future expenses --- are facing new restrictions on how they can spend those dollars in 2011 and beyond. Among the changes: Consumers will no longer be able to use their accounts to buy over-the-counter drugs without a prescription and will eventually face a cap on the amount of money they can put in the fund.
Nationwide, employees could lose upward of $400 million in tax-free money because they didn't use up their 2010 FSA dollars, according to FSAStore.com, an online marketplace for FSA-eligible products and services.
But depending on their employers, some people have until March 15 to spend that money and perhaps longer to actually file claims, said Tony Holmes, a partner in the Atlanta office of Mercer, a national consulting firm.
For Atlanta business owner Rob Carter, emptying his FSA by the end of the year hasn't always been easy.
"It becomes a bit of a game of chicken," said Carter, who estimates he has forfeited $300 or $400 in past years.
The challenge is predicting expenses for the year to avoid putting too little or too much into the FSA, he said.
More recently, Carter, who typically puts about $1,500 into his account, has erred on the side of underestimating his expenses --- enabling him to use up all of his funds last year.
Medical savings accounts have recently grown in popularity as rising health costs have driven consumers to get more involved in their own care.
"One of the huge issues with [health care] costs is people not being engaged," Mercer's Holmes said. "We want people to have more financial skin in the game so they'll ask more questions."
Some 85 percent of companies with 500-plus employees offer a flexible spending account, with 23 percent of workers taking part --- contributing an average of $1,500, a Mercer survey shows. In 2009, 3 percent of total FSA funds went unspent, averaging $45 per worker, the firm said.
Experts advise consumers to calculate their health care expenses from the previous year to help determine a realistic amount to put in an FSA.
For Andres Romero, the FSA has become a critical money-saving tool.
The local financial planner has one child who already has braces and two more who likely will need pricey orthodontia in the near future.
"Between that and increasing deductibles and co-pays in my insurance, I kind of depended on flexible spending to alleviate some of that cost," he said.
Romero estimates he saved about $3,000 on taxes in 2010.
However, new restrictions spurred by the federal health care overhaul will affect how FSAs can be used in the future.
In 2013, FSAs will be capped at $2,500. Many large employers now allow workers to contribute up to $5,000.
Romero said that could amount to a roughly $2,000 tax hit for him.
Some consumers use their FSAs to cover large predictable needs, which can easily exceed $2,500, said Garry Hill, manager of the group benefits practice at the Atlanta insurance brokerage firm Sterling Risk Advisors. "The net result is going to be a tax increase on those folks," Hill said.
This month, another restriction from the health care overhaul will prevent patients from using their FSAs to pay for over-the-counter drugs such as cough medicine or aspirin without a prescription. The rule has implications for patients and medical providers alike.
Atlanta pharmacist Ira Katz, who owns Little Five Points Pharmacy, said some pharmacists may not fill prescriptions for over-the-counter drugs because of the expense. On average, it costs roughly $10.60 in overhead costs to fill a prescription, not including the actual price of the drug, he said.
Other types of medical spending accounts are also proving to be popular. Health reimbursement accounts and health savings accounts both allow consumers to put aside money for future medical expenses, but, unlike an FSA, the money rolls over into the new year so people don't lose it, Mercer's Holmes said.
In 2010, 38 percent of Atlanta employers and 50 percent of companies with 500 workers or more offered consumer-directed health plans, which feature an HRA or HSA, according to a Mercer survey.
Consumers need to find out all their health care options before making a choice of which consumer product fits their needs, Holmes said.
As a single, healthy young man, Norcross-area resident Ed Wilson felt he didn't need a flexible spending account.
But now married and with a baby on the way, Wilson decided to put $2,200 into an FSA for 2011 --- mainly to help cover delivery costs.
Anything left over will go to co-pays for doctor visits and other needs, he said.
The $2,500 cap doesn't bother Wilson since his family is still small.
"For larger families," he said, "I could see that becoming an issue."
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Reuters Blog- Jan 11, 2011 Tuesday
Time running out on FSAs
There are only a few days left to buy over-the-counter drugs using your flexible spending account (FSA) debit card before new rules kick in that require a prescription for common healthcare products such as Tylenol and cough syrup.
Under new guidelines that came into effect on January 1st, “any drug or medicine is going to require a prescription from your doctor if you’re going to submit a receipt to your administrator,” explains Jeremy Miller, president and co-founder of FSAStore.com. But those with FSA or health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) debit cards have through January 15th to make OTC drug purchases without a prescription while merchants update their systems, the IRS says.
But before you rush out to stock up on Band-Aids, take note: not every OTC product requires a prescription post-January 15th.
“There’s been a lot of misconceptions about what items fall under the new rule,” says Miller.
Generally speaking, items that contain medicinal ingredients — including antacids, pain relievers and cough suppressants — need a prescription. But everything from pregnancy tests to bandages to blood pressure monitors are still fair game. (See the complete list here.)
FSAs allow consumers to sock away pre-tax money to spend on drugs and medical supplies, but new rules are afoot: on top of this month’s changes to OTC drug purchases, your annual FSA contributions will be capped at $2,500 in 2013.
Still, not everyone takes advantage of them, Miller says. A survey by Mercer Consulting found that 79 percent of large companies offer FSAs, but only 21 percent of eligible employees participate in the plan.
“There’s a lot of people who could be saving money on these products. Save yourself some money,” Miller says.
Visit http://blogs.reuters.com/prism-money/2011/01/11/time-running-out-on-fsas/ for more information
Benefitspro - Jan 3, 2011 Monday
IRS adjusts FSA debit card restriction
By Jenny Ivy
The IRS is backtracking on a rule that would have banned health account holders from using debit cards to purchase over-the-counter medication that now needs a prescription.
In late December, the IRS announced health reimbursement arrangement and flexible spending arrangement debit cards will be allowed to purchase OTC drugs after Jan. 15, as long as the account holder has a prescription in hand at the pharmacy, or a prescription is given to a Web-based or mail-order vendor.
The IRS says the use of debit cards must comply with procedures reflecting those that pharmacies currently follow when selling prescribed medicines or drugs.
Without the change of policy, account holders would have had to pay for the OTC drugs up front, and try for reimbursement later with the proper prescription documentation and a receipt.
Other purchases - like crutches and first-aid supplies - that don't need a prescription but are considered eligible medical expenses are still allowed as a debit card purchase, and insulin purchases can still be made with or without a prescription.
The prescription requirement applies to purchases made on or after Jan. 1, 2011, and not to purchases made in 2010 even if reimbursed after Dec. 31, 2010.
Those who try to use account funds to pay for an OTC drug without a prescription will have to use post-tax money and pay an additional 20 percent tax.
Several groups in opposition of the new restrictions on tax-advantaged accounts have beenurging the new Congress to push back the effective date, if not repeal the provision on prescription OTC medication altogether. There has also been backlash against another health reform law that will put a cap on pre-tax contributions to $2,500 starting Jan. 1, 2013. According to FSAstore.com, citing data from the Special Interest Group for IIAS Standards, there are 28,370 products that remain FSA-eligible without a prescription in 2011.
Visit http://www.benefitspro.com/2011/01/03/irs-adjusts-fsa-debit-card-restriction for more information
SMARTMONEY NOVEMBER 29, 2010
Flexible Spending Accounts: New Rules
By ANNAMARIA ANDRIOTIS
With one month left to exhaust any money remaining in flexible spending accounts, it s time for the annual ritual of stocking up on aspirin, re-ordering contact lenses and squeezing in one more round of skincare treatment . But starting next year, new rules will make that drugstore shopping spree a lot harder -- which means re-thinking how you spend this year s money, and how much you allocate for 2011.
The new rules are a hassle. Starting in January, many over-the-counter medications will not be covered by FSAs without a prescription. If you want a tax break for Tylenol, you ll need a prescription from your doctor. Yes, that defeats the point of over-the-counter, and doctors aren t exactly eager to spend their days signing off on routine meds, says Dr. Roland Goertz, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, which represents 94,000 doctors. But consumers who don t want to jump through these hoops could lose about $500 to $1,000 of tax savings each year, says Thomas Harte, a board member with the National Association of Health Underwriters.
As it is, consumers don t always make the most of their FSAs. Only one in three eligible employees participate, according to Mercer, and some don t spend all the money they set aside. (The excess returns to the employer, who typically uses it to offset the cost of administering the FSA program.) Last year, the average participant who forfeited funds left $43 unspent not a fortune, but up 54% from the year before. Under the new rules, it s likely that amount will keep growing, says Sheryl Garrett, a fee-only certified financial planner or that consumers will simply stop using the FSA altogether and give up the tax break.
There s a tentative list here, there are new strategies for using the remainder of this year s FSA money. Specifically: Stock up now on medications that will require a prescription next year, and delay any non-urgent doctor visits until January. That way, this year s money will pay for those drugstore buys, next year s money will pay for the check-up, and you ll have a chance to get prescriptions for anything you might need early in the year, says Harte.
And while you re at the doctor, ask about her policy for writing prescriptions for over-the-counter medications. Many doctors will agree, says Goertz, but some, frustrated by the paperwork and time required, will decline. Some may require a patient visit before writing a prescription, which means consumers could have to budget more for co-pays, and other doctors might levy an extra fee for the service. This should all be part of the equation for employees who can still adjust their FSA allocation for next year, experts say: If you re using that money primarily for drugstore spending, you may find the tax savings isn t worth the hassle.
Visit http://www.smartmoney.com/plan/helath-care/flexible-spending-accounts-are-becoming-stingier/?cid=djem_sm_dailyviews_h&print=1#article_tab_article for more information