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!
As the New Year begins, one common resolution is to get back into shape for the coming year. But as you know, most people give up their resolutions because they're difficult, and because of pain that comes from improper workout form. Before you hit the gym consider the following tips to have safe workouts in 2018.
1. Build your butt to boost squats
This might sound silly, but poor control of your gluteus maximus (your buttock muscles) can leave you susceptible to injury during workouts like squats.
If the gluteus is weak, your hip extension will be as well, and your spine might have to overcompensate, leading to strains. If you do squats, monitor yourself during the lowering motion and be sure you don't tip forward. You may want to spend a few weeks of specific gluteus strengthening before going into a squat workout.
One exercise that can help strengthen your gluteus is the prone hip extension. To do these, simply lie down and squeeze your buttocks, then lift one leg to perform a hip extension. Do three sets of 10, three times a week. And if possible, it never hurts to have a trainer watch your form.
On a side note, getting back and hip pain is normal during any new workout. If you're noticing some discomfort in your back and sides during these targeted sessions, ask a medical professional if a drug-free pain relief device like the FSA-eligible TENS therapy is right for you.
2. Never ignore your knees
When performing lunges, step-ups, squats or other cardio, a common mistake is allowing the knees to "roll in," allowing the knees to move forward past your toes. This puts pressure at the joint line, meniscus, and knee caps, among other body parts.
When lunging, keep knees in line with your ankles and inner toes. Imagine a glass wall coming up from your toes to help you keep your knee from moving too far forward, or consider using a knee brace or support to help maintain good form.
3. Harness your hips
Tight hip muscles can lead to injuries as well. During activities that require a lot of bending, like yoga poses and squats, a tight hip flexor will fire to help you balance especially if the glutes are weak. This overactivation can lead to stiff, painful muscles.
Tight hips can also pull at your spine creating excessive arching which can contribute to back and hip issues. Be sure to stretch your hip flexors and strengthen glutes.
4. Brace that back
During certain core workouts be careful to mind how far you arch the back. Many people think they're addressing their core, but poor form can leave them at risk of injuring it instead. A common mistake seen in the gym is arching or dropping of the back during the bird dog exercise (a position in which you're on all fours, alternately lifting an arm and the opposite leg).
Be sure to hold your spine straight, changing how high you kick your leg to avoid hyper-extending the back or rotating the hips. One helpful idea might be to brace your belly button towards your spine when performing the motion.
Core workouts can strain on your back, so consider picking up a flexible but supportive back brace to alleviate pain and strains.
5. Push those pecs
The chest muscles in the front have been shown to inhibit your upper back muscles. This prevents them from firing properly during your upper body workouts. It can contribute to unwanted motions such as shrugging shoulders while lifting which can lead to shoulder and neck issues.
A gentle stretch of the pecs for even one minute a day can help address these muscles and help prevent a slouching posture. But if your upper body workouts are a work in progress, consider an preventive support belt to keep your body position aligned.
6. Pace yourself!
It's important to build up gradually. Experts say that you should increase your activity (distance, intensity, weights) by no more than 10% per week.
Example: If you want to run 10 miles per week, increase it by one mile the next week. If you're currently lifting 20 pounds, try to increase by two pounds the following week, then modify accordingly. And as always -- be sure to warm up before any workout!
Finally, pay attention to your body. If you're experiencing pain, see a qualified medical professional, and decide if FSA-eligible physical therapy relief products will help your routine.
By a show of hands, how many of you have really taken time to rest and relax lately? Now, I don't mean sleeping all day, or binge-watching Netflix until you can recite "Stranger Things" in three languages. I'm talking about letting your mind and body "turn off the noise," and truly be at ease, whether you're out with friends or alone with a good book.
There's a good chance most of us have forgotten how to block out those distractions, even on the most uneventful weekends. Whether it's parenting, work, financial concerns, or other stressors, the hectic nature of modern life keeps our brains working long after we've clocked out for the day.
It's time to give yourself permission to rest, relax and recharge. Below, we've highlighted a few ways (and a few products) to help you on the path to helping yourself achieve genuine relaxation, so you're ready for it even when life doesn't make it easy.
Set a leisurely pace, even when you're busy
It seems funny to begin a piece on relaxation with tips for the workplace, but people operate in cycles throughout the day, awake or asleep. These rhythms see us reaching peaks and valleys of energy and alertness, and also indicate when we need to take mental time-outs, to recharge our systems.
The problem is, most workplaces don't allow for much downtime, much less on an individual schedule. But, the more we can pay attention to these cycles, the more productive we'll be when alertness is a must.
According to productivity expert Tony Schwartz, when our bodies need to rest, they send out distinct signals, such as hunger, bouts of drowsiness, lack of focus and other distractions that can interfere with the average workday.
To counter these lapses, we can't rely on coffee to soldier through the downtimes. Instead, if possible, Schwartz recommends taking short breaks to reset focus, and regain clarity for the work that remains.
Relax your entire body
It's an unfortunate reality, but even when we think we're resting, we're not always addressing our entire body.
For some, trying alternative forms of treatment, such as yoga or acupuncture, could go a long way toward relieving some stressors you previously didn't know how to address.
Please keep in mind that both yoga and acupuncture are services that may be FSA-eligible with a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) as provided by a medical professional (acupuncture may not require an LMN with some benefits administrators).
If these services are not covered by your FSA funds, then consider other ways to relax your body, such as acupressure mats and cushions, which are often covered without need for medical authorization. (Always check with your benefits administrator before purchasing, just to be sure.)
Don't just sleep a lot – sleep well
Let's face it, once Friday afternoon rolls around, your mind is probably focused on cramming in as much enjoyment as possible before Sunday evening. Which is fine, if that enjoyment allows your body to truly rest and revitalize itself.
But that doesn't happen too often. Happy hours, parties, concerts, sporting events, and the like are certainly fun, but these activities can be mentally and physically exhausting. And late nights out only interrupt restful sleep cycles.
We're not here to tell you not to go out from time to time. But, establishing a healthy sleep pattern is an ongoing process. One idea is to use your phone to set an alarm or reminder that indicates it's time to start your wind-down routine, or simply go straight to bed.
At first, you might feel strange being in bed so "early." But once you're curled up and comfortable, and wake up feeling altogether more rested, you'll probably wonder why you haven't tried this sooner.
In the long-term, we recommend establishing a reasonable bedtime, an appropriate waking hour, and allocating time in the morning to ease into a day with no rushing, urgency or distraction.
If you have trouble falling into a healthier sleep cycle, we recommend an FSA-eligible sleep mask. These devices can help block ambient light and other visual distractions from interfering with your rest time, as well as providing soothing aromatherapy to help you get to sleep faster.
And, if your doctor determines your sleep needs require medical attention, items such as melatonin or sleep-aid pills are FSA-eligible with a prescription.
We know it can be difficult to find balance between work, play and relaxation, but it's important to ensure work and play don't eliminate good rest from the equation. The best way to stay productive, alert and happy is to give your body the rest it needs, during your downtime and throughout the work week.
It's official! Spring 2013 started on March 20, and warmer temperatures are on the horizon. Though, in certain parts of the U.S. hit by snow recently, it may not seem that spring has fully arrived yet.
For college students, this time of year brings spring break - a welcome time to relax with friends (usually at the beach) or at home. For everyone else, it’s also a chance to start enjoying the outdoors more with running in a nearby park, hiking, or simply walking around town.
Whether you're traveling or staying home, below are few flex spending eligible product ideas to get you ready for spring.
Understanding health care coverage can get complicated very quickly. With the many options available to consumers ranging from HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) to HDHPs (High-Deductible Health Plans) to PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations) to POS (Point of Service plans), it can be difficult to wrap your head around each. Not to mention that only few people read the fine print of their insurance policies.
More pressing concerns nowadays surround what health care covers and how much it'll cost people. People may not realize that they can actually save on health care in the long run.
Perks of an FSA
Through a Flexible Spending Account, or FSA, which is an employer-sponsored benefit add-on, consumers can set aside tax-free money towards qualified health care expenses. Not only that, but flex spending accounts can be applied to services not typically covered by your insurance policy!
- The money you set aside for qualified medical expenses is PRE-tax. You can save up to 40% on each dollar you put into your FSA.
- If you don't have an FSA, the money that would go towards qualified health care costs, is first deducted from your paycheck but after taxes (federal, and often state and local) have already been removed.
- Contributions to FSAs are not subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Setting up Coverage
Each year, you select how much money will be put into your FSA during an open enrollment period. Your employer deducts amounts that will be taken out of your paychecks throughout the year. Sometimes your employer may decide to contribute to your FSA as well.
Shopping with an FSA
To use your FSA, your employer can offer you a special FSA debit card to be used at different retailers - including FSA Store - and health care providers. At times, you may have to submit receipts of your FSA expenses to your FSA administrator to clarify what you used your FSA for and if the expense is FSA-eligible.
You'll be paid out of your FSA by check or direct deposit. Make sure you carefully check your balance throughout the FSA year as you're limited to what you set aside. Read more about health care changes here.
Health Insurance & FSA
You can use your FSA towards out-of-pocket expenses for health care services including co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles. However, health insurance premiums do not qualify as expenses.
If you've ever been confused about which FSA-eligible products you can buy with or without a prescription, you can rest assured that you have access to more than you may realize!
Ever since health care changes in January 2011, there seems to be confusion around which products require or don't require a prescription to be reimbursed under a Flexible Spending Account (FSA).
- Only over-the-counter products containing medicines require a prescription.
- Insulin is excluded from the prescription requirement.
Examples of Products Needing Rx:
Pain Relief: Advil, Aleve, Bayer
Cold & Allergy Relief: Zyrtec, Claritin, Delsym
Nicotene patches & gums
If you need help with a prescription, FSA Store offers an Rx Process. Read more about how you can submit a prescription here.
You can still buy plenty of products and medical supplies without a prescription. Products without a prescription include breast pumps, contact lens care, first aid kits, gel shoe inserts and more! Shop FSAstore.com's selection and discover which products are eligible!
It's mid-January. At this point you're either well on your way to sticking to your New Year's Resolutions - eating healthy, exercising more, quitting smoking, and saving money...and the list goes on - or maybe your regular routine is already in good shape. Either way, health plays a large role in our lives and it's no surprise then that New Year's Resolutions tend to be health-oriented.
So where does a flexible spending account (FSA) fit in with resolutions?
Quitting Smoking. If your New Year's resolution is to quit smoking, your flexible spending account will be able to help. Smoking cessation programs are FSA eligible and you can find FSA eligible smoking deterrent products to stall the habit.
Having an active lifestyle. Many people associate the New Year with a chance to lose weight or exercise. While weight-loss programs are not FSA eligible (unless necessary to treat a medical condition), maintaining good health is key to living a full life. Easily monitor your blood pressure, protect your skin while having fun in the sun, or treat your muscle strains in your quest to be the healthiest "you!"
Preparing for emergencies. No one likes to imagine doomsday scenarios (though we survived the "end" of the world), but having a first aid kit handy in emergencies doesn't hurt. Check out more first aid items here to be ready for anything.
Keeping your baby healthy & expanding your family. If you're expecting or already have a little one, you know how important it is to stay on top of your baby's happiness. We carry FSA eligible breast pumps that can be carried with you on-the-go, a pediatric kit containing a nasal aspirator and digital thermometer, and many more baby care products.
And, last but not least.... Saving money. An FSA is tax-free and can save you up to 40% on every dollar on qualified medical expenses! Find out how FSAs work from the FSA Learning Center.
We all know the dreadful feeling of waking up, being exhausted with a fever or a runny nose, and experiencing aches all over. When that happens you know cold/flu season has arrived. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published more information about the flu and what you can do to protect or treat yourself if you have the flu.
While rest, sleep, and lots of liquids are generally recommended with cold/flu symptoms, there are other remedies that could speed up recovery. FSAstore.com's FSA Eligible Cold & Allergy products offers warm steam vaporizers, saline solution, nasal sprays, and medicines such as cough drops, tablets and more.
You can also get a flu shot - it's FSA eligible as it's a preventive measure.
FSAstore.com recently launched a new category called Goodies. So...what exactly are these? Goodies are products that you may not even realize are FSA eligible!
Here’s just a sampling of the Goodies we sell:
Experiencing puffy eyes after that eyebrow wax, or debilitating sinus pain that is keeping you from your normal routine? FSAstore.com has a soothing TheraPearl Hot-or-Cold-Therapy eye mask to dull the pain.
The cold and flu season can really bring your mood down. To help reduce symptoms and restore moisture to your home, there is the Vicks Warm Steam Vaporizer.
A boo-boo can spoil your child's mood, but with TheraPearl Pals Pig, a scratch, insect bite, and even a fever, can easily be reduced!
If menstrual cramps have you curled up in pain, take control with 8 hours of heat-activated, discreet pain relief through ThermaCare Air Activated Heatwraps.
You won’t need to suffer anymore from sore feet! Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel Outrageous Comfort Inserts for women and men cushion and support your feet. These handy inserts fit into your work or dress shoes and into casual shoes, too.
Regular band-aids might be boring for your kids, why not make their scratch a little less painful with these Disney/Pixar Cars brand Band-aids?
Need to store your contact lenses somewhere safe and easy to find? This colorful Flents Soft Grip Contact Lens Case separates between left and right, and keeps your lenses secure. Just put the lenses and contact solution into the leak proof case and you’re set to go!
Chapped or cracked lips are typical of this time of the year. Banana Boat Aloe Vera and Vitamin E Lip Balm not only offers sunscreen protection, but also protects from cold weather. Simply apply and say hello to smooth lips enriched with aloe and vitamins!
When you're out and about, sun protection keeps you safe from the sun's damaging rays. With Coppertone Ultraguard SPF 30 Continuous Spray you won't have to worry about reapplying as it is ultra sweat proof, and you'll be able to enjoy your day outdoors instead.
This minimally-invasive Braun Thermoscan ear thermometer has a pre-warmed tip to make getting your baby's temperature quick.
Browse FSAstore.com for More
Check out Goodies to find other useful items. As 2012 comes to a close, many FSA plan years are also ending on December 31st. Make sure to check your FSA balance with your FSA administrator and use the funds so they don't expire.
FSAstore.com Adds Pierce Group Benefits to Its Third Party Administrator Network Increasing Direct Reach to Consumers With FSA/HSA Accounts
NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Jul 13, 2011) -FSAStore.com, the only e-commerce site stocked exclusively with flexible spending account eligibleproductsandservices, today announced its partnership with Pierce Group Benefits, a provider of employee benefit packages includingflexible spending accountsfor approximately 130,000 participants.
"Even in this tough economic environment consumers forfeit their tax-free income to their employers, we believe, because the process for using FSA/HSAs to purchase healthcare products and services is inconvenient," said Jeremy Miller, FSAStore.com founder and president. "FSAStore.com makes the process simple and we are thrilled to offer our services to our newest partners' participants."
"Keeping the FSA process simple and convenient for our participants is one of our top priorities," said Donald Pierce, president of Pierce Group Benefits. "FSAStore.com offers clear benefits in terms of convenience and ease of use and their seamless customized promotional programs ensure that these services are brought directly to our participants."
FSAStore.comis the only e-commerce site exclusively stocked with FSA eligible products and services so there are no guessing games about what is and isn't reimbursable by an FSA. In addition tomore than four thousand FSA-eligible productsthe site offers a national provider database ofFSA eligible servicesand anFSA Learning Center. FSAStore.com accepts all FSA debit and major credit cards, offers 24/7 customer service, one-to-two-day turnaround and free shipping on orders $50+ and there is no need to submit receipts when using an FSA debit card.
About Pierce Group Benefits
Pierce Group Benefits is an insurance brokerage company that builds comprehensive benefits packages for public and private sector employers in North Carolina. By leveraging our alliances with insurance providers that are known for their strong benefit structures and unparalleled services, we give employees better benefits at competitive, affordable prices while creating time and cost savings and ease of benefits administration for employers. Pierce Group Benefits serves numerous North Carolina accounts including public school systems, community colleges, private colleges and universities, hospitals, and government entities and services more than 130,000 participating employees. For more information about Pierce Group Benefits, please call 1-888-662-7500 or visitwww.piercegroupbenefits.com.
FSAStore.com features thousands of eligible products and services, as well as listings of health care providers.
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.