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That's Eligible?! A little more clarity on FSAs and contact lenses

Eligibility

A while back, we covered some surprisingly eligible ways you can use your FSA to care for your eyes. But we realized that contact lenses probably deserved a little more discussion.

Contact lenses, like eyeglasses or LASIK, can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. About 20% of Americans who need their vision corrected wear contact lenses. Contact lenses can provide a full field of unobstructed vision, which is great for being active and participating in sports.

And with good reason -- the National Eye Institute encourages everyone to get an annual eye exam. But what happens if you need glasses or want contacts? Can you use your FSA to pay for them?

How do I choose the best contact lenses for me?

Most eye care centers provide several options for contact lenses. But there are a few factors to consider when choosing the right type of lenses for you. First -- what is the physical material of the contact lenses? Traditional soft contact lenses provide the best comfort and adjust quickly when put in.

But you might also consider harder, gas-permeable (GP) lenses which usually require a little adjustment before they become comfortable. However, GP lenses provide better vision because they have a hard, polished surface that doesn't rip as easily as soft ones. Over time, this could mean real cost benefits.

Are all types of contacts covered?

In essence,if contacts are designed to correct vision problems, they are FSA-eligible. Though insurance companies might have their own policies regarding coverage of specific types or brands of lenses, all are fully reimbursable with your tax-free funds.

Plus, unlike some insurance providers, which may not cover contact lenses in place of eyeglasses, if the contacts are prescribed to correct vision they are eligible, regardless of insurance plan coverage.

So, what isn't covered?

If you're looking to use contact lenses purely for cosmetic purposes -- for example, trying a new eye color, adding to a sick Halloween costume, scaring your neighbors, etc. -- then you can't use your FSA to pay for them.

They may be fun and exciting, but they have no corrective purpose, so they don't make the cut. Don't feel slighted, though -- products and services designed only for cosmetic purposes are never FSA-eligible.

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Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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