With the FSA grace period ending on March 15, we've seen a boost in social media activity, as FSA users look to spend their remaining funds before the deadline.
We're here to answer the most-popular FSA grace period questions to help you better manage your FSA money. These are just a few of the most-commonly asked questions, but the answers can help equip you with the knowledge to make this a successful March deadline.
"If I purchase an Rx item, where do I send the prescription?"
Over-the-counter products that contain medicated ingredients - such as Tylenol, Advil, Claritin and even some cough drops - require a doctor's prescription for FSA reimbursement. In most stores, you need to hand your prescription to the pharmacist and you will be able to use your FSA card with the prescription number you get.
However, if you shop on FSAstore.com, we have a easy Prescription Process that requests prescriptions from your doctor on your behalf, so you can quickly make your purchase without any hassle.
"If I retire this year, what happens to the leftover balance in my account?"
If you're planning to retire and you're enrolled in an FSA, you should spend the money before leaving your position. If you don't, your unspent money will go back to your employer.
If you've been keeping track of your FSA balance and spending throughout the year, hopefully there won't be much leftover. If you need some inspiration for new ways to use your remaining balance, check out our hi-tech health and surprisingly eligible goodies collections.
"What specific health practitioners can sign a Letter of Medical Necessity?"
Medical products and services that fall outside of FSA eligibility rules like massage therapy and calcium supplements can still be eligible with a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from a doctor. However, your plan administrator can still approve or deny the expense.
"What's the difference between the FSA grace period and run-out period?"
Let's tackle this as simply as possible: the FSA grace period is your last chance to spend, the "run-out" period is your last chance to file claims.
The FSA grace period gives you 2.5 months after the end of your plan year to spend your remaining FSA funds from the previous year. So if your plan usually ends on December 31, you would have until March 15 to spend the last of your 2017 funds.
The run-out period is an option offered by your employer to submit claims from the previous year. This will give you a chance to be reimbursed for any outstanding medical expenses you incurred during 2017 and forgot to submit for reimbursement. Check with your benefits administrator to see if this option is offered to you (since not all plans have it) and to find out how much time you have to submit expenses.
"So, can I use 2018 FSA funds to pay for 2017 expenses?"
Employers have the option to elect either a 2.5 month grace period or a $500 rollover option to help you not lose your funds. This may mean spending 2017 funds in 2018.
For example, if you have a plan year beginning in January 2017 that ends in December runs into 2017, you may be able to use those FSA funds during the FSA grace period that ends on March 15 2018. Check with your plan administrator to see if you have the grace period option.
Those with a traditional 12/31 deadline have to spend down their funds by this date. Those with FSA rollover can move up to $500 of their remaining funds into their 2018 FSA totals.
Happy Friday, everyone! This week, I'm stepping in for Sean while he enjoys some warm weather fun a few months ahead of spring. And, while the warmer temps of mid-April seem like they're light years away, tax season is already here. This means the media discussion of personal finance and healthcare savings is in full swing.
This week, let's take a look at a few of the many headlines populating our news feeds, and see what's trending in the ongoing personal healthcare and tax discussion.
Analysis: The tax benefits of a health savings account - Thomas Heath, The Washington Post
This time of year, mainstream media outlets offer up a lot of "overview" discussion on flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). But few of them open as directly as Thomas Heath, who says, "Any time you can protect your money from the tax man, I want in."
Using real-life examples of conversations Heath had with his wife and his employer's human resources department, Heath offers a quick, succinct breakdown of each type of account, what the common misunderstandings are, and what the tax ramifications might be.
Though there are much more thorough resources to be had about your flexible spending tax options (starting right here and here), this piece does a good job whetting your appetite for deeper discussion.
Do workers saving in both 401(k)s and HSAs end up cannibalizing one account for another? - Marlene Y. Satter, BenefitsPro
With so much of today's personal finance discussion focused on putting aside retirement money, while also paying down current medical bills, this BenefitsPro article is perfectly timed. According to the author, a recent study shows that workers who put funds into both a 401(k) and a health savings account are saving more overall than those who just put money into a single account.
She goes on to dispel some common myths about whether saving to one type of account could cannibalize potential savings to the other.
Note: Viewing the entire article requires you to set up a free BenefitsPro account, but we recommend doing so, since the author does a good job breaking down trends and figures about these accounts, contribution analyses and more.
Fewer than half of parents take advantage of this money-saving tax break - Leslie Albrecht, MarketWatch
Here's a sobering thought from this MarketWatch article: Parents could save more than $2,000 a year on child care costs, but more than half leave the money on the table, according to a survey of 1,100 parents by Care.com.
Here's another one: While most parents (67%) know they could save on child-care costs with a tax break called the dependent care flexible spending account, only 44% actually use one.
In this piece, author Leslie Albrecht points out potential sources of child-care tax savings that you can get, even if you don't have a dependent care FSA. And if you do, she also explains how these account holders can still take advantage of the federal child-care tax credit. It's a worthy read for any parents seeking a break from rising daycare costs, and seemingly unforgiving tax scenarios.
Tax season can be a complicated time, but we're here to help. For the latest about your health and financial wellness, you can turn to our Learning Center, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages for the info you need to #GetFlexSmart.
Valentine's Day -- some see it as a "Hallmark holiday." Others see it as the most love-filled day of the year. But, no matter your opinion on the day itself, most Americans still like to cozy up and enjoy the romance in the air.
Maybe we don't discuss love and affection much around here. But then again, maybe we should. Let's take a closer look at some surprisingly eligible products that can help warm up a chilly Valentine's Day, while also helping you stay healthy and happy on the most romantic night of the year.
Set the right mood…
Since dinners, drinks and movies aren't FSA-eligible, let's assume the night goes well with your significant other, and things will head back to the homefront. What better way to ease tensions and relax each other than through a gentle, romantic massage?
Now, to be clear, massage therapy isn't FSA-eligible. However, items like the Kanjō Memory acuPressure Mat can help turn your home massage into something entirely more comfortable, relaxing, and even therapeutic.
This mat offers a simple, yet effective at-home solution for neck and back pain. Taken from the ancient Chinese methodologies used in acupuncture, this high-density memory foam mat targets acupressure points to reduce pain throughout the body.
No one wants to start a relaxing evening with tense shoulders or nagging pain points. Let your FSA help you boost your massage game, and ease your aches, all in one product.
And if the night progresses further…
Let's start off with some very good news -- condoms are FSA-eligible. We can't say for certain where your evenings may go, but we also can't stress enough how important safety is for whatever you might have planned.
Condoms are an effective contraceptive when used correctly, which is great for family planning. But they are also one of most effective ways to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This alone is a great reason for everyone to have condoms on hand if the night heats up.
Ensure the good feelings last until morning…
It doesn't matter if you're new friends or married for 35 years, few things will kill the romance more than snoring. Thankfully, anti-snore guards and remedies are FSA-eligible with a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from a physician. If you or your partner have a medical condition that leads to snoring, and a doctor has recognized how it will be used to treat your specific medical condition, your FSA can help.
For less-intense cases of snoring (maybe from eating too many chocolates, or sipping too much champagne), you should also consider a simple moisturizing nasal spray, which helps free up dry airways, so your breathing is smoother, and your sleep is more restful… for everyone in the room.
No matter how you plan on spending your holiday, consider the above tips when planning your evenings. Be safe. Be confident. Be romantic. And #getflexsmart by using your FSA to enhance and improve every part of your well-being.
Tax-free healthcare spending requires diligence to manage correctly. But that doesn't mean it needs to be difficult! Keeping clear records of how much of your pay goes toward insurance costs, doctor's visit deductibles, and costs of prescription medications, health supplies and over-the-counter products, can go a long way.
What's important is that you know how much your health spending impacts your overall budget. We'll help you can get ahead of your health spending with these organization tips.
Start with a budget
The easiest way to keep track of your healthcare spending is to set a monthly budget. Take your monthly income and subtract your major expenses such as housing, utilities and food, but don't forget to include your health spending. The key to a monthly budget is to think of it as a dashboard view of where your money is going.
One detail to remember with a monthly budget is setting a budget at the beginning of a month is really a projection on how your money will be spent. At the end of the month you should compare your projection to the actual spending in each category.
From month to month you will find trends on utilities rising and falling with the seasons, food and entertainment spending shifting around and even changes in your healthcare spending. A monthly budget will also allow you to see the impact of unforeseen events on your spending, such as a visit to an emergency clinic, or some unexpected guests coming into town.
You can keep a monthly budget on paper, or even through a spreadsheet template, but there is a wide range of free budgeting software apps that can be found with a quick web search. This personal budgeting software will be able to offer graphical charts and trackers to make it easy to see exactly how much of your spending is going toward healthcare.
Keep up with FSA-eligible spending
Another benefit of keeping a monthly budget that includes health spending is you can get more detailed and track your FSA-eligible spending by category.
Why is this important? FSA dollars are use-it-or-lose-it, so it is best to know how much you have available so that you spend those dollars the best way possible before your yearly deadline. And having a better understanding of your annual healthcare spending will also influence how much you can (and should) elect during your open enrollment.
To help you establish and set a budget (and to see how much you can save on your medical needs using FSA dollars), we have an FSA calculator that can help you estimate your health spending for the year so you can make informed decisions, and take maximum advantage of your flex spending dollars.
While each use case varies, we estimate that by using tax-free dollars, you can essentially save up to 30% on your eligible medical, pharmaceutical, dental and eye care costs. The only challenge is figuring out how much money to set aside.
It's barely February and consumer healthcare news has been coming in at a blistering pace, thanks to some major industry developments. This FSA Friday, we take a closer look at these disruptive, but encouraging changes, including a dynamic newcomer in the healthcare space, the "Airbnb-ing" of health services, and the growth in popularity of generic drugs. Let's dive in...
Amazon: How its strengths could help it in healthcare - David Marino-Nachison, Barron's
In January, we learned that Amazon is partnering with Berkshire-Hathaway and JP MorganChase to break into the healthcare industry. As of now, the focus and scope of Amazon's efforts are a mystery, but it hasn't stopped experts from examining what the company does better than anyone else, and how that could apply to the healthcare industry.
Barron's posted a helpful overview of a much deeper article by Harvard Business School professor Robert Huckman, who stated that Amazon's edge in data integration, friction-free commerce, and willingness to experiment could help the company revolutionize healthcare in the future.
When you need to find a new doctor, where do you turn? Family? Friends? It's a tremendously personal decision, but perhaps one that will be made easier by the launch of AirCare. This new platform puts an "Airbnb" spin on the search for healthcare providers by aggregating the availability of local providers.
Much like the Airbnb lodging service, this disruptive platform will give users the ability to search for primary care doctors, compare pricing, book appointments, and even submit claims to insurance companies. For providers, AirCare will potentially change how they run their healthcare practices by giving them access to consumers, and eliminating the need for medical billers.
Savings take center stage for generics makers - Jim Frederick, Drug Store News
Not all of these recent developments are "new" concepts. The high cost of prescription medicines remains a major issue for the U.S. healthcare system, but new research has found that expanding accessibility and use of generic prescriptions could be a major cost-saver.
According to research firm IQVIA and the Association for Affordable Medicines, generics accounted for 89% of all U.S. prescriptions dispensed in 2016. Yet, they cost just 26% of what U.S. consumers spent on prescriptions. Amazingly, generics have saved the American healthcare system $1.67 trillion in the last decade.
Additionally, generics put cost savings back into the pockets of American consumers, many of which are forced to forgo refilling prescriptions for branded drugs because of high prices.
Despite all these looming changes, one thing remains certain -- for the latest about your health and financial wellness, you can turn to our Learning Center, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages for the info you need to #GetFlexSmart.
Groundhog Day is a yearly event where Americans turn to a giant rodent to predict the end of winter. It's also a popular movie starring Bill Murray in which his character re-lived the same day over and over, until he got the details right. Let's focus on the latter.
Because FSAs are a great way to save on medical costs by using tax-free money, the last thing you want to do is relive the same mixups you made with your spending in previous years. Maybe you spent your money too quickly. Maybe you left funds in your account and lost them. No matter the issue, balanced yearly spending comes down to having a plan.
Take a look back
A great method to plan for this year is to look back at your expenses from 2017:
- What product(s) contributed most to your FSA spending?
- Did you find yourself short of an FSA-eligible product when you most needed it?
- What product(s) did you run out of because it wasn't in the usual FSA purchase list?
- Did you have a surprise expense, such as a medical emergency or a newly diagnosed condition?
- Did you end up buying FSA-eligible products or services with post-tax dollars?
Answering these questions will provide a head start to where you want to spend your FSA contributions, as well as when you want to spend those dollars.
Take a look around
When putting together your budget, be sure to leave about 10-20% of your funds aside to cover unexpected medical expenditures. Whether this is the cost of medication, an emergency room visit, or a trip to a specialist, you'll have additional breathing room by using tax-free funds.
After all, the 2018 flu season has been one of the worst in decades, so it's good to get ahead of the bug by putting a little money aside.
On that note, if there's one expense you should factor into your budget for 2018, it's an appointment with your primary care doctor to get a full assessment of your well-being. With a better understanding of your health, you'll have a much better idea of what your medical spending will be over the course of the year.
Take a look ahead
The best way to avoid losing your FSA dollars at the end of the year is to create a budget that outlines how much you have in the account to spend, as well as the expenses you know will be needed over the course of the year.
When planning your FSA spending, you might have the option to roll over up to $500 into the next program period, as well as a 2 ½ month grace period to move into next year's plan from this year's contributions.
On the other side of the coin, even with this flexibility, you might want to leave wiggle room in the account for unexpected mishaps that might be eligible for FSA spending. This includes any FSA-eligible services you might need, and keeping your medicine cabinet supplied with essentials, such as first-aid products.
The key takeaway is to not be like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day." Though no one can predict the future, planning your FSA spending can help you avoid reliving the same situations again.
With new deadline extensions in place, thousands of eligible products available for purchase, and the freedom to use an FSA card, flexible spending accounts are easier than ever to use. We've seen a little bit of everything since we founded our company in 2010, but year after year there are still questions on the minds of FSA account holders.
So, once and for all, we're tackling the three most common eligibility questions we receive from FSA users. Whether you're an HR professional or an account holder, you can be armed with the knowledge necessary to take full advantage of your tax-free funds.
"Why do I need to get a prescription for items like Advil or Tylenol that I can buy without one in a pharmacy?"
New visitors to our site may think that we're putting FSA users through the ringer to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, but in reality, we are simply complying with rules put into place through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
The provision requires FSA users to submit prescriptions for any OTC products that have a medicated ingredient like Advil or Claritin to obtain reimbursement. Our team continues to support the repeal of this provision, but until that happens, we can help you navigate this requirement.
First, FSA users should be mindful of any upcoming OTC medicine purchases they may need to make in the coming months, and pick up prescriptions during routine doctor office visits. If you don't have an appointment on the horizon, we have created the Prescription Process to help.
Simply provide your physician's name, phone number and address and we will obtain the documentation necessary for you to make your purchase.
"So, diapers aren't eligible, but toddler training pants are?"
This is a common point of confusion for FSA users as it would seem that these two products perform the same function. As is often the case, diapers are considered "general health" items by the IRS. In short, diapers are used to clean up after a healthy function of the body, therefore it has no medical purpose.
However, toddler and young child training pants are eligible because they protect against bed-wetting, an involuntary function of the body. Training pants are commonly used in treatment plans for bed-wetting to help kids develop nighttime bladder control.
"Why aren't tampons eligible?"
When it comes to FSA eligibility, there is no product or service that has been more confusing than tampons. Currently, tampons are not eligible for FSA reimbursement in accordance with IRS regulations. And we understand why there's so much frustration.
The answer lies in an IRS regulation that dictates which products and services are FSA-eligible -- regulation IRS 213(d), which states:
"The term 'medical care' means amounts paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body."
Furthermore, the IRS claims, "...medical care expenses must be primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental disability or illness. They don't include expenses that are merely beneficial to general health, such as vitamins or a vacation."
We think this means the IRS views them as a means of treating a healthy function of the body, as opposed to treatment of an illness or long-term condition.
Products like these, which are designed for "general health" purposes, are not FSA-eligible. But, we'd love for the IRS to make an FSA-eligibility exception, so women can cover more of their personal expenses with tax-free funds, and help FSAs do more for their families.
Be sure to visit our Learning Center for more great articles about everything FSA, so you can maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!
If you are like many people with FSAs, the end of the year deadline can bring with it a mad rush to spend your leftover funds, so you don't lose them. This tax-free money is a great way to cover qualified health-related spending, while enjoying savings on taxable income. But waiting to spend right before the deadline might just lead to losing the funds if you're not careful.
For 2018, use these simple tips to plan ahead with your FSAs. As you'll learn, they don't have to be a year-end burden -- in fact, they're opportunities to save on the products you need, with the tax-free money you've already set aside year-round.
Make a spending plan your New Year's resolution
If you head into a new tax and employment year understanding what your paycheck contributions will be for your FSA account, you already have a key piece of planning in place for knowing how much you have available to spend in any given month.
The FSA contribution limit in 2018 will be $2,650, which comes out to about $221 per month.
If your medical expenses are straightforward, here are two easy rules of thumb for choosing an FSA amount:
- If your out-of-pocket medical bills typically amount to $221 a month or more — or roughly $2,650 a year — consider contributing the maximum to your FSA.
- If you don't contribute the maximum, consider adding $200-300 per month.
- If your medical expenses are lower, calculating the total of your estimated copayments, dental and vision expenses for next year should cover your needs.
And you probably don't want to try and zero-out your FSA funds on a monthly basis so your account does have some money available for unexpected expenses. Like when your entire extended family catches a seasonal flu … at the same time … and requires a huge amount of over-the-counter decongestants.
What you can do is take stock of FSA-eligible items you know you purchase regularly from basic medicine cabinet restocking or maybe just a replacement of reading glasses that get lost like clockwork.
The goal with a spending plan is to prepare regular purchases in advance on a regular basis – maybe monthly, maybe every other month or even just quarterly – which figure into your regular FSA fund contribution levels, while leaving some room for unexpected emergencies.
Avoiding the end-of-year crunch
This way you will be consistently spending that money that has the yearly use-it-or-lose-it deadline on items you know you'll be needing throughout the year anyway. Doing so will avoid a total crunch at the end of next year and will keep your contributions going toward FSA-eligible products.
Anyone making that end-of-year mass purchase right now is probably thinking back on the number of items that were bought out of pocket that could have been purchased using FSA funds with a little more planning.
In fact, if you're scrambling to spend this year's FSA contributions before the deadline hits, once that task is complete take a few more minutes and put together a spending plan for next year.
You've already put thought into what you regularly need and done the research on different products that are FSA-eligible. There are probably a few in the mix you didn't even realize qualified for FSA spending. Check out our eligibility list for a complete listing of FSA-eligible products and services.
It's your money. Use it to ensure continued health and wellness for 2018 and beyond.
If you have an end-of year FSA deadline, what are you still doing here? You only have two days to shop with your available funds before you lose them!
This is a particularly busy time of year for personal finance journalists, as well. This week, we were lucky enough to be mentioned in a series of pieces regarding this all-important FSA deadline. (And we even contributed our own views to a few publications as well.)
So as we close out 2017, let's recap some of our best media hits from the past week -- all of which can help you gear up and spend down, just in time for the 12/31 deadline.
Employee Benefit News - "What to tell workers about FSAs before the end of the year" - Jeremy Miller
Our CEO and founder, Jeremy Miller, was published in Employee Benefit News this week with tips for HR and benefits professionals. FSAs are often plagued by confusion among employers, and Jeremy outlined some simple strategies that can make a real difference around FSA deadlines to help employees get every financial benefit from their accounts.
CBS News - "Don't let your flexible spending account money vanish" - Ray Martin
We think our website's Eligibility List is the best in the business, and we're thrilled that CBS News agrees! After you've read this great rundown of end-of-year flex spending tips, follow the link to our Eligibility List to check out the eligibility status of thousands of medical products and services.
Consumer Reports - "It's time to spend your flexible spending account money" - Donna Rosato
We received another mention in an article by Consumer Reports, which you might know as one of the most popular consumer advocate publications in the U.S. In addition to important information about the deadline, the article also covers the primary differences between FSAs and HSAs, helpful links to IRS documents, and a link to our home page!
Happy New Year from all of us at FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com! For the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow our Learning Center, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
At Open Enrollment, one of the most daunting tasks can be deciding on the best health insurance plan option that meets your needs and the needs of your covered dependents. There are often many choices, and the language used although intended to be very clear, can actually be quite confusing. Before choosing a health insurance plan, be sure to ask questions, pre-determine your health expenses and health care needs for the year ahead and research all of the variables of the plan options available to you. A good place to start is the Summary of Benefits and Coverage, which should be provided to you prior to your Open Enrollment election and can provide the basic information you need to make the most informed choice possible.
While the variables of each plan offered can differ greatly, the basis of the plan designs are consistent. To help you prepare for the difficulties in choosing a health plan that makes the most sense for you, here are some of the basics for the various types of employer sponsored health plans that are offered. Note that this list does not include individually purchased health plan options or options available through the exchange.
Commonly Offered Employer Sponsored Health Plan Choices:
- Preferred Provider Organization Plans (PPOs): PPOs allow individuals to use any of the plan's preferred providers within their extended network, including specialists, without the need for a referral. PPOs can vary in terms of out-of-pocket expenses, but they typically will require a co-pay for certain types of expenses and many may even require you to meet a deductible up front.
- Health Maintenance Organization Plans (HMOs): HMOs allow covered individuals to use any provider within an extended network but require that individuals first choose a Primary Care Physician who will coordinate all of their extended care. Once a Primary Care Physician has been chosen, covered individuals must see their PCP for referrals to certain specialists. Deductibles and co-pays may apply and will vary by plan design.
- Exclusive Provider Organization Plans (EPOs): EPOs allow covered individuals to see any of the physicians within the assigned EPO network, typically without the need to assign a preferred provider or to obtain referrals. Often times EPOs will not provide any coverage for services rendered outside of the EPO network, so individuals must be certain to check the network of approved EPO providers before choosing this type of plan. Deductibles and co-pays may apply and will vary by plan design.
- Point of Service (POS) Plans : POS plans are a combination of the traditional HMO and PPO plan. You are typically free to see any provider within a large covered network and may be required to assign a Primary Care Physician for regular office exams and wellness visits. With POS plans, you are usually free to also use providers which may be out of the plan's network, and will often pay higher amounts for these services. Deductibles and co-pays may apply and will vary by plan design.
- High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs): HDHPs can come in many forms, including PPOs, EPOs and HMOs. HDHPs are designed to incentivize covered individuals to make better choices in regard to their care. By requiring individuals to meet a set dollar amount up front before their health insurance plans will cover certain expenses or all expenses, similar to the way in which you would meet a deductible with car insurance, HDHPs are intended to force the consumer to think about their medical needs and choices before receiving treatment, perhaps even shopping around for a better price. By having more “skin in the game", HDHPs are intended to create a more informed consumer. Qualified HDHPs can also be offered with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). In order for an HDHP to be HSA-qualified, the deductible requirement may be no less than $1,300 in 2017 for self-only coverage and $2,600 in 2017 for family coverage. To be HSA qualified, the maximum annual out-of-pocket costs cannot exceed $6,550 for self-only coverage and $13,100 for family coverage in 2017. Limits are increased for inflation each year.
- Employer Sponsored Plans: When making your choices for the best health insurance plan to meet your needs, consider all options available to you. Many of the aforementioned plans will be offered with various types of employers sponsored plans, including Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). When making the choice that most closely meets your needs, don't forget to consider all options available to you.
Still have Open Enrollment Questions?
One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from our customers pertains to the FSA-eligibility of vitamin supplements, which are considered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to be "general health" items, and not used in the treatment of a medical condition.
One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from our customers pertains to the FSA-eligibility of vitamin supplements, which are considered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to be "general health" items, and not used in the treatment of a medical condition.
However, alongside prenatal vitamins, a notable exception to this rule is glucosamine and chondroitin -- popular supplements used to treat the pain and loss of function associated with osteoarthritis (OA).
What is glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a substance that is found naturally in the body within healthy cartilage, most notably in the fluid around the joints, reports the Arthritis Foundation. The supplement most often used to treat arthritis and joint issues is glucosamine sulfate, which has shown in laboratory tests to provide anti-inflammatory effects, and can assist in the regeneration of cartilage.
What is chondroitin?
Much like glucosamine, chondroitin is also a naturally occurring substance in the body, and a major building block of cartilage. Chondroitin contributes to overall cartilage health by retaining water, which, in turn, contributes to overall joint flexibility. According to the National Institute of Health, research has not shown chondroitin to be helpful for pain stemming from knee or hip osteoarthritis.
How do glucosamine and chondroitin work?
Glucosamine and chondroitin are usually combined in supplements to treat a wide range of osteoarthritis and joint pain issues. The National Institute of Health reports the vast majority of research surrounding these supplements relates to the treatment of hip and knee issues, with a comparatively small amount of research conducted on other joints.
Chondroitin and glucosamine supplements alone, or in combination, may not work for everyone with osteoarthritis.
However, patients who take these supplements and have seen improvements in joint pain and function should not stop taking them. These supplements are safe to take long-term and may present a viable option for those contending with chronic joint pain issues.
If you suffer from joint pain concerns, use your flex dollars at FSAstore.com to give glucosamine and chondroitin supplements a try.
Have you decided to sign up for a flexible spending account (FSA) and received an FSA card? Great news! You will be able to set aside tax-free money each monthtocover a huge selection of medical products and services. In most cases, FSA account holders will receive an FSA card to make purchases, but it can't be used everywhere. Let's explore the most important points about the regular use of an FSA card!
Who accepts FSA cards?
FSA cards are essentially the same as debit cards, but used to cover medical expenses. In some cases, FSA holders who wishto access their funds are required to incur an out-of-pocket expense, and then submit receipts to their benefits administrator. Employees will get reimbursed once thepaperwork is submittedforeligible expenses.
FSA cards make the reimbursement process much easier by automatically withdrawing funds from thedebit card.However, if an FSA holder opts to make a purchase with his/her card for a product or service that is a non-healthcare merchant, this merchant must support an inventory information approval system (IIAS). An IIAS identifies healthcare eligible items based on the products UPC code. Thiscombines inventory management and point-of-sale systems that confirm the eligibility of items purchased with a FSA card, which accesses eligibility flags in the merchant's inventory database. In addition, this will generate a payment transaction that contains the required IIAS information. It will also allow merchants to respond to IRS audits, if they occur.
Do I still need to keep my receipts?
FSA cards automatically deduct the amounts of your qualified purchases.But,flexible spending accounts require itemized deductions. The IRS requires that all FSA reimbursements be substantiated with receipts or other forms of documentation.Benefits providers may request a copy of itemized deductions to validate that an expense was eligible for reimbursement through a FSA.
Now that you know how your FSA card works, use it at the store designed to make it easyto spend FSA funds: FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA eligible items. We accept ALL FSA cards and major credit cards.
Life is full of surprises. When it comes to life events, there are those that happen unexpectedly and those that you plan for. When you sign up for a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you must stick to a specific budget, or contribution per year. It's important that you think carefully about that contribution amount by taking into account expenses for medical visits, routine dental and eye care, and over-the-counter products you need.
But, what you elect to contribute to an FSA during your company's yearly open enrollment isn't necessarily set in stone. As mentioned earlier, life events can occur that alter your necessary coverage. The birth of a child, marriage, or a change in employment, will all affect coverage for your FSA plan. When such a qualifying life event occurs, many (but not all) employers allow you to make a mid-year election change to your FSA.
Defining Qualifying Events
A qualifying event affects your eligibility for FSA coverage, and you can only make changes to your FSA that are "consistent" with that event. Always contact your third party administrator (who handles your FSA account) about qualifying events, or check your Summary Plan Description for guidelines on which changes you are allowed to make under your plan. As mentioned before, not all employers or FSA plans allow employees to make mid-year changes.
Examples of Qualifying Events
- Changes in marital status such as a marriage, divorce, annulment, death of a spouse or a legal separation are all qualifying events.
- Changes in the number of (tax) dependents such as through birth, death or adoption would affect FSA coverage.
- Employment changes certainly would affect plan coverage. Maybe you just started a new job or changed from a full-time or part-time position. Unlike a Health Savings Account, your FSA does not transfer with you as you leave your job – so be sure to use remaining funds, if you know you're leaving. Employment changes not only impact you, but your dependents' coverage, as well.
- Eligibility requirements for children. It's also important to keep in mind coverage eligibility requirements for your children. Under the Affordable Care Act, non-dependent children under the age of 27 years old are eligible for FSA coverage.
- A change in residence might also be an allowed change, but only if the move directly affects your coverage.
- Sometimes a Health FSA plan may allow for a change (for the employee, spouse or dependent) due to a COBRA qualifying event. This is at the discretion of the employer. For example, let's say that Anne goes from a full-time job to a part-time job, loses her health coverage, and opts into COBRA. She could increase her tax-free contributions under her current employer's plan because she lost eligibility of normal coverage as she lost work hours.
- A Health FSA plan might allow for a mid-year change due to judgments, decrees, or orders resulting from a divorce, annulment, legal separation or a change in legal custody. It would have to affect health or accident insurance coverage for a (foster) child who is a dependent. You would be able to add or cancel coverage for a child.
- A change in election is also possible (if allowed by the company and FSA plan) if an employee is entitled to Medicare or Medicaid. Employees can adjust the election to cancel, increase or reduce health coverage.
- Leaving under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) would let employees revoke elections of group coverage or continue group health coverage. This depends on what the FSA plan allows. Employees have a few options when it comes to FMLA and continued coverage during unpaid leave. They can prepay contributions (pre-tax), they can make payments along the way, or they can pay after returning from the leave.
Contacting Your Third-Party Administrator
You should always check in with your TPA within 30 days of the qualifying events. Your Summary Plan Description defines which (if any) qualifying events allow you to make changes under your plan.
It's back-to-school season and as you scramble to get your kids ready for the new academic year, there may be more important items on your to-do list than picking up school supplies! August is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month, which is sponsored by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and aims to provides information to the public that can help protect and preserve your child's eye health for life.
Luckily, whether you have a medical flexible spending account (FSA) or a limited care flexible spending account (LCFSA), your benefits can cover a significant portion of vision care expenses that can help your child see clearly throughout the coming school year. Here are a few of the AAO's suggestions of what you should cover as August gets underway.
- Vision Exam
According to the American Optometric Association (AAO), an eye exam is recommended for school-aged children every 2 years if there is no vision correction issue present, and those who need glasses or contact lenses should visit on an annual basis, reports All About Vision. Before your kids get back in the classroom this fall, make an appointment with your optometrist to ensure your child's eye sight is healthy - and use your FSA to cover it!
- Eyeglasses/Contact Lenses
Before your kids get back into the classroom, make sure they have up-to-date glasses and contact lenses that can stand up to the rigors of the coming school year. Your FSA covers reading glasses, prescription eyeglasses and prescription contact lenses, so if your child's eyewear is in need of an update, your FSA can cover the fresh new look they've been looking for. Visit our Optical Store to browse our selection of the hottest eyeglasses and contact lens brands.
- Vision Correction Accessories
Are you running low on contact lens solution? Has your child misplaced a carrying case? In addition to vision correction methods, your FSA covers a huge slate of products that can protect and prolong the lifespan of your kids' eyeglasses and contact lenses. Contact lens solution, eyeglass repair kits, cleaning cloths and much more are eligible for FSA reimbursement. Best of all, these products are available over-the-counter and do not require additional documentation to be purchased with your FSA card!
Get a healthy start on the coming school year by shopping at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits.