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How does a Flexible Spending Account work?

Basics

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!

    1. 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.
    1. 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.
  1. 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.

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