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Flex-Ed: Using an FSA to cover prescription medicines

Basics

If you have any prescription medications you take on a regular basis, you probably have a routine - go to the pharmacy, wait in line, hand over your insurance card and pay for the prescription with your debit or credit card.

Even with your insurance chipping in, chances are you end up paying a decent chunk of the bill out-of-pocket. If you're battling a chronic condition, those costs can really add up over time. But what if you could get that medicine at a cheaper price without using your insurance card?

It might sound crazy, but billing your insurance isn't always the most cost-effective option. Here's what you should know about the alternatives, and how your FSA card can save you even more.

Pay for prescription medicine instead of using insurance

A recent investigative report from The New York Times and ProPublica found that 40 common prescriptions were cheaper using GoodRx, a prescription discount card, than billing insurance.

GoodRx is the most common type of prescription discount card, and it's completely free. Blink Health, SingleCare and WellRx are some of the other cards available. All you have to do is print one out or have it mailed to you.

These discount cards only apply if you don't bill the prescription to your insurance. Here's how it works: You fill the prescription at a pharmacy, present the GoodRx or similar discount card and then pay for the remainder with your FSA card. Some pharmacies will even have the cards sitting out for anyone to use.

Discount prescription services list their prices before you buy, so you can see if it will be cheaper than using insurance and which pharmacy has the best price. As with most cost-saving measures, shopping around is a step toward saving the most money.

Pay for over-the-counter medicine

You can use your FSA card to pay for over-the-counter (OTC) medicine if a qualified professional has prescribed it (note that OTC items which do not contain an active medical ingredient will not require a prescription and you can shop for thousands of qualified items here). The prescription must be written before you buy the drug and generally within the FSA plan year in which you purchase it. .

You can use your FSA card when you buy the item at the drugstore. You can also pay with a regular debit or credit card and then request reimbursement from your FSA provider. Keep the receipt and the prescription to prove it's a qualified medical expense.

Pay for prescription medicine after insurance

If billing your insurance is still the cheapest way to buy a prescription, you can use your FSA card to save even more money.

When you fill the prescription, give the pharmacist your insurance card. They'll run the prescription and bill you for any leftover amount. You can pay for that directly with your FSA card or use a debit or credit card and then file a claim with your FSA provider. And of course, keep the receipt to prove it was an FSA-eligible expense.

Eligible with Rx

Flonase Allergy Relief Nasal Spray

Relieve seasonal and year round allergies.

Aleve All Day Strong Pain Reliever

Get you back on track, all day long.


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New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our weekly Flex-Ed column gives you a weekly dose of FSA Living 101, offering tips for making the most of your tax-free funds. Look for it every Thursday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center.

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