Medical conference admission, transportation, meals, etc: FSA Eligibility
What are meals at a conference?
Meals at a conference, even if that conference is relevant to learning about necessary medical treatment, are not eligible for reimbursement with any consumer-directed healthcare account. Meals at a conference, such as a bag of crispy snacks or unsweetened tea cakes, cannot be included in any reimbursement requests under consumer-directed healthcare accounts.
Hypothetically, the meal of a medical patient which is not then fully consumed by that medical patient could be consumed by another, even a companion. If this meal were reimbursed with a consumer-directed healthcare account, the consumption of the meal might be considered against the spirit of the IRS legislation governing eligible reimbursements with consumer-directed healthcare accounts.
Even if a companion is accompanying a patient for medical reasons, they cannot purchase meals and have the expenses reimbursed. Companions must pay for their own meals, or seek other sources of funding or nourishment. There are many nourishment options available in such a situation, such as nutritional shakes, dry noodles, trail mix, leftovers, and so on. Sustaining a companion whose presence is part of a necessary medical trip does not necessarily have to result in financial hardship.
Meals outside of a hospital or similar institution are not eligible for any type of reimbursement with a consumer-directed healthcare account. Meals are only eligible for reimbursement if they are purchased at a hospital or similar institution, when the principal reason for visiting is to get medical care.
Why is medical conference admission/transportation eligible?
However, as opposed to the cost of meals, medical conference admission and transportation is eligible, because it directly relates to the medical treatment of the account holder or a qualified dependent. This ruling is heavily contingent on IRS regulations which control what is reimbursed through consumer-directed healthcare accounts. Under IRC 213(d)(1), "medical care includes 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." This includes medical equipment, supplies and devices. As such, meals and lodging fall outside this distinction, but admission and travel expenses directly relate to the medical conference and are therefore eligible.