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When it comes to flexible spending accounts (FSA), you've probably heard about the tax breaks and benefits (not to mention being able to pay for health emergencies when they arise). But, what most people really want to know is what the term "eligible expenses" actually means.
This is especially true if you're having issues with pain, and you want to explore therapies like acupuncture or other types of alternative pain management.
So let's take a quick look at how FSAs classify acupuncture, as well as other alternative types of treatment, like the often confused acupressure, which is often also FSA-eligible. (See the differences in this post.)
Is acupuncture FSA eligible?
Acupuncture has been used in Asia for centuries to treat pain, but it's still a fairly new type of treatment here in the U.S. Acupuncture is an approved FSA eligible pain relief because the IRS considers it a qualified medical expense that you can deduct on your tax return.
Other FSA eligible alternative pain management options
Are there any other FSA eligible alternative pain treatments? Potentially. Each situation is unique and will likely be handled on a case-by-case basis by your FSA plan administrator. Two common alternative treatments for pain include:
- Naturopathy — non-invasive treatments that promote self-healing
- Chiropractic — manipulation of the spine to alleviate pain and discomfort
It's at your doctor's discretion whether these alternative types of therapies would be useful in your treatment plan. These services are generally FSA eligible. However, in some cases your administrator may require a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from a medical practitioner to prove the service was for treatment of a medical condition and not general good health.
The LMN must provide detailed information about how the alternative treatment would be used as part of your treatment plan, what the treatment would cover, and how long treatment should last. Regardless, your best option is to discuss alternative therapies with your physician to determine if there's an opportunity to integrate these treatments into your pain management plan.
For times when drug free pain management or acupuncture are not possible or convenient, like when traveling or when you simply need an immediate relief from a terrible migraine, it’s a good idea to have proven medicated pain relief staples like acetaminophen or ibuprofen on hand. Plus — you guessed it — they’re FSA eligible. You’ll thank yourself when those headaches, migraines, sinus pain, or neck and shoulder aches hit.