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Accounts

Asked and Answered: What are voluntary benefits?

Often overlooked, voluntary benefits can be a fantastic addition to a primary healthcare plan. They can help you with different aspects of your life like covering your living expenses, lost wages and other types of much-needed health insurance.

While employer coverage doesn't always account for these extra benefits (you may need to cover 100% of the costs) there is the benefit of a group rate through your employer. In other words, many of these voluntary benefits come at a steep discount. (And we like those.)

Just because your employer may offer many options, doesn't mean you need to choose all of them. It also doesn't mean you need to ignore them, either. With so much uncertainty - whether it's the current job landscape or even other health concerns - it may be a good idea to look into these options.

Read on to find out some of the most popular ones employers offer, what it may cover and who it's best for.

Critical illness

This type of insurance can be a great addition to your regular health insurance premium. It'll give you a lump sum amount if you end up being diagnosed with a critical illness covered in your plan - including but not limited to end-stage renal failure, coronary artery bypass surgery, a heart attack, stroke and even a major organ transplant.

The idea behind this type of insurance is that even though you may already have a comprehensive plan, expensive treatments like the ones mentioned above may still cripple your family or loved ones financially. The lump sum amount will be paid directly to you so it can be used where it's most needed.

Who this is best for is those who are younger (think millennials and ones in their prime working years), especially those with dependents. It's similar to term life insurance in that when a critical illness does happen, you get paid once. It is solely to help pay for expenses that your regular health plan won't cover.

Long-term disability

Long-term disability (LTD) insurance helps to cover costs in the event you cannot work anymore. What happens is that LTD insurance will replace part of your paycheck because of illness or accident - what that is depends on your individual policy. In essence what you're doing is insuring that you'll still receive a paycheck so that you can pay for regular expenses.

LTD insurance is best for those who may not have a lot of paid time or or other sources of income should that be needed to cover your expenses. Typically, this type of insurance is for those actively working and usually in places that aren't considered too risk by insurers.

Vision and dental insurance

Most employers typically offer some sort of vision and dental insurance plan, where it'll cover things such as eye exams, discounts on treatments (e.g. eye care accessories), teeth cleaning, crowns and dentures. These may be cheaper out of pocket or not - it totally depends on your current health situation.

For example, for those who are older and have a family history of eye diseases, having vision insurance could be a godsend. Or if you're young and have healthy teeth and gums, it may not make sense to get dental insurance if all you're doing is getting your teeth cleaned once a year.

These are just a handful of the available benefits being offered. Others can include accident, hospital indemnity and even identity theft insurance. No matter what you do, you'll want to take a careful look at your current situation and speak with a trusted professional about what you may or may not need.

Shop eye care

Bausch and Lomb Biotrue Multi Purpose Solution

Biotrue solution helps prevent certain tear proteins from denaturing for clean contact lenses and fights germs for healthy contact lens wear.

$21.99

Flents Wipe 'N Clear Pre-moistened XL Lens Wipes

Flents Wipe 'N Clear Pre Moistened Lens Wipes can be used for cleaning all types of eyewear, computer screens, and safety glasses.

$12.99


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From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our weekly Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears every Wednesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Eligibility

Asked and Answered: Why can’t I use my FSA to pay for insurance premiums?

In running the FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com Learning Centers, there are some questions that always seem to pop up. And the subject of using flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to cover health insurance premiums is one of the most-common questions we get.

So, since open enrollment is about to kick off, and we probably have a whole new group of future FSA owners checking out the site, let's revisit this topic, to see if we can clear the air a little.

First, a quick overview of premiums

Premiums are amounts paid to an insurance company to cover the cost of coverage. Their value is heavily based on factors like:

  • Type of coverage
  • Likelihood of a claim being made
  • Where the policyholder lives or operates a business
  • Inherent risk of health problems or behavior
  • Competition with other insurance companies.

In short, premiums are an insurance company's way to cover any liabilities that come with the plans they underwrite. State insurance regulators work to make sure companies have enough reserves to cover any claims, to ensure that medical expenses are covered. Premiums can fluctuate after each policy period, based on a number of cost factors.

For policyholders to continue receiving coverage through their insurance plans, premiums must be paid according to the policy's payment plan schedule. It's left up to policyholders to decide where the funds should come from. And unfortunately, the IRS doesn't allow for those funds to come from your FSA.

But don't take our word for it - instead, review IRS code 213(d), which states the following about FSA spending:

"...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."

In other words, health insurance premiums fall outside of this definition, since they pay for coverage, but aren't directly connected to the actual care.

Are premiums ever covered by health care accounts?

FSA holders can't count insurance premiums as eligible expenses, but health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) offer slightly more options.

In a small number of exceptions an HSA can cover long term care, or premiums for spouses and qualified dependents when the account holder is receiving health care continuation benefits (COBRA) or federal/state unemployment compensation. But, for the most part, they won't cover premiums. HRA coverage of premiums is even more complex, so don't count on it.

TL;DR?

If you have an FSA you can't use these tax-free funds on premiums. But don't let that be a deal breaker. Your FSA covers thousands of FSA-eligible items, alongside other vital out-of-pocket expenses like copayments, deductibles, over-the-counter items, and more.

Top sellers!

KT Tape Performance+™ Blister Prevention Tape

Designed to help prevent athlete-related abrasion injuries, such as blisters, chafing, and hot spots.

dpl® Oral Care Light Therapy System

Used for the treatment of muscle and joint aches, painful gums, sprains, back pain and the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

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From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our weekly Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears every Wednesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

Asked and Answered: How can I tell the difference between self-care and medical care?

If you've ever woken up with a head cold and debated whether or you should go to the doctor or just take a personal day on the couch, then you've debated self-care versus medical care.

When you feel sick or exhausted, it can be difficult to make the call on how to get better. On one hand, doctors can usually tell what's wrong right away, and get you on your feet faster. On the other, you don't want to overreact or have to pay doctors' bills for no reason.

Even though there isn't a right or wrong answer, it's important to understand the difference between self-care and medical care, and the different ways in which they might harm or help your health. And here's the good news: you can often use funds from your flexible spending account (FSA) to pay for the cost of medical care. Plus, you might be able to use your FSA to pay for some self-care items as well.

[Please note, these are anecdotal suggestions. For a determination of your personal health and wellness needs, be sure to speak with a licensed medical professional before making any changes to your routine.]

Self-care

You've probably heard self-care discussed in your office and praised on social media, but the definition of the term is often unclear. Some people claim self-care is the act of soaking in a bath after a hard day at the office, while others say acts of self-care must be related to your health—eating your vegetables, hitting the gym or sleeping soundly at night.

In its simplest form, self-care is taking action to preserve or improve your own health.

When it comes to your physical health, there are self-care steps you can take to preserve or improve your health. For example, if you experience anxiety, you can soothe yourself with a weighted blanket, hot tea or deep breaths. All of these coping mechanisms would fall under the umbrella of self-care.

Medical care

It may seem obvious, but medical care is provided by medical professionals. Officially, it's defined as, "the provision of what is necessary for a person's health and well-being by a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional."

The main difference between self-care and medical care is the person providing the care. With self-care you are providing the care, and with medical care a healthcare professional is providing the care.

For example, if you experience anxiety and decide to pursue talk therapy with a licensed professional, you would be utilizing medical care. Doctor exams, nurse visits, dietitian meetings and therapy appointments are all elements of medical care.

How do I determine what I need?

This is where the "gray area" comes into play -- for most people, self-care and medical care coexist. In fact, many people pursue both at the same time.

For example, if you're feeling down and can't understand why, you might decide to talk with a therapist and also go on long walks, light scented candles and eat more vegetables. You don't have to choose between self-care or medical care. In fact, it's often a good idea to utilize a combination of both.

When you're feeling sick, whether it's physically or emotionally, it is often hard to determine what kind of care you need. And we're certainly not doctors -- for any decisions about your personal health, be sure to consult a medical professional!

If you're on the fence about whether or not you should visit a healthcare professional, it's probably a good idea to make an appointment and check in about your concerns. When it comes to your health, it's better to err on the side of caution.

Bottom line

Health is tricky and it might be difficult to determine what kind of care you need. If you're unsure about whether you need to visit a health professional, it's probably a good idea to visit.

But while you wait for your appointment, it might help to employ some self-care practices. After all, this is the only body you get, so you might as well take care of it.

Personal care must-haves

Clinere Personal Ear Cleaners

Clinere Ear Cleaners have dual purpose ends for flexible ear cleaning and ear-itch relief.

KT Tape Performance+™ Blister Treatment Patch

Designed specifically to protect and help heal blisters during the rigors of athletic training and competition.


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From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our weekly Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears every Wednesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Eligibility

Asked and Answered: Why aren't comfort and relaxation considered for FSA eligibility?

The truth is, there's a lot more to your overall well-being than routine doctor's appointments and prescription medications. Being comfortable and taking the time to relax is important for both physical and mental health.

But, if you've ever looked at our FSA eligibility list, you've probably noticed an absence of things like massages, yoga classes, meditation retreats, and other things that can enhance your well-being. This is because the IRS has strict guidelines about what is considered a qualified medical expense, and comfort and relaxation currently don't fit into those standards.

Why aren't they qualified expenses?

According to the IRS, for an expense to be eligible the item or service needs to be for the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of a disease or condition. Items and services that you purchase solely for your comfort and relaxation generally don't fit into any of these categories. So while they might be necessary for your overall comfort, they aren't considered a medical necessity.

The good news is that you can still use your FSA funds to help achieve comfort and relaxation, as long as that comfort comes from treating a specific medical need.

So, what's eligible?

There are many items and services that you can purchase with your FSA that will help you find comfort and relax. Many people are surprised to learn just how many items are considered eligible expenses and find that they can make purchases that allow them to achieve what they're looking for. Some of these items include:

Acupressure Mats: In this writer's eyes, all discussions of FSA-eligible pain relief start here. Acupressure mats are an excellent way to relieve muscle discomfort, and many people find them to be the perfect remedy for back pain after a long day of sitting in an office chair.

When used regularly, they can even help improve circulation and flexibility. They're eligible for reimbursement with your FSA and can be used just about anywhere you have room to lay down.

Acupuncture Therapy: This centuries-old technique is popular amongst people who suffer from chronic pain and discomfort. The acupuncture technician uses thin needles to target precise points on your body which will ease the pain. In addition to muscular pain, many people use this technique to find relief from frequent migraines.

And acupuncture therapy is generally considered FSA-eligible without a prescription. In some cases, administrators may require a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) to substantiate the expense, so check with yours before making that appointment.

Heating Pads: Heating pads are a popular and simple way to ease pain and provide comfort. Applying heat can help ease muscle pain, menstrual cramps, ear aches, and headaches. These pads are FSA-eligible and come in a variety of styles and sizes.

Foot Circulators: Not a month goes by where someone from our writing team sings the praises of these foot circulators. And once you try one, there's a good chance you'll do the same thing.

If you spend a lot of time on your feet, you've probably experienced tired, aching feet on a regular basis. Foot circulators help relieve this discomfort with electrical stimulation. This eases pain, improves circulation, and helps minimize swollen ankles and legs. These circulators are FSA-eligible and can make staying on your feet all day considerably more comfortable.

So, what's the takeaway here? While you can't turn to your FSA exclusively for comfort and relaxation purposes, it doesn't mean you won't enjoy those benefits while treating your specific medical needs. Because, after struggling with some serious aches and pains over the years, there's nothing more relaxing than treating and relieving it with the products mentioned above.

Therapeutic favorites...

90-Minute Oska Pulse Electromagnetic Massage Unit

This is a non-drug solution to pain relief that uses pulsed electromagnetic fields to increase circulation, reduce inflammation and improve mobility.

dpl® Oral Care Light Therapy System

Medically proven to increase circulation, enhance gum health, and relieve pain/soreness.

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From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our weekly Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears every Wednesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Basics

Flex-Ed: Using an FSA to cover prescription medicines

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.

Eligibility

That's Eligible?! Revisiting 3 products that just miss FSA eligibility

In case you're new to Asked and Answered, we get a lot of questions about product and service eligibility. And understandably, there's a lot of confusion when it comes to certain products that seem like they should be eligible, but don't quite make the cut in the eyes of the IRS.

On the surface, the regulations behind your FSA seem pretty cut and dry. After all, these accounts are designed to cover "diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body."

But, this makes for a gray area, and some exclusions are more confusing than others. Let's revisit a few products that you would expect to be FSA-eligible, but unfortunately, haven't quite earned a spot on the list.

Toothbrushes/toothpaste/floss

I think we can all agree that good dental care is a healthy "must." Because not taking care of your teeth can lead to a wide range of potential health problems (not to mention social concerns). So, it would make sense for dental supplies to be eligible, right? Well, not quite … at least not yet.

Unfortunately, items like toothbrushes and floss fall under the umbrella of "general health," and don't make the grade just yet. We hope to see some changes in this area, but for now, these products are still taxed. That doesn't mean you should stop using them, though. There are better ways to make a point…

(It also doesn't mean there aren't any FSA-eligible oral care products available - there are plenty of ways to keep your mouth healthy using your tax-free funds.)

E-cigarettes and vaping devices

When we first mentioned these controversial products, they were becoming a hot-button issue. Today, vaping is quickly becoming a massive industry. It's also massively unregulated and largely unproven.

While there have been a metric ton of studies both in the U.S. and abroad proving the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a viable smoking alternative, the FDA won't designate them as "smoking cessation" products until countless other standards and regs are put in place. And that means the IRS isn't likely to budge, either.

So, while nicotine gums and lozenges might not be as popular as vape pens, they're still the only FSA-eligible (when prescribed) smoking cessation products around. But stay tuned, because the growing vape industry is bound to push for FDA approval each year until it gains some traction in Washington.

(But there are still some FSA-eligible smoking cessation tools worth investigating, though.)

Insect repellent

This might be the most-common product we hear about each day. We all know insects carry disease. And that their bites can transmit disease. So wouldn't a product that deters insects from biting be considered a preventive measure against disease?

However sunscreen is eligible and thankfully, your FSA does allow you the best of both worlds, thanks to sun protection that features insect-repelling ingredients. It might not be as potent as that industrial-size can of DEET you carry when you go hiking, but if you can get viable bug and sun protection in one bottle, it's a win-win, with tax-free funds.

BullFrog Mosquito Coast Bug Spray

BullFrog Mosquito Coast Bug Spray is engineered with a DEET-free insect repellent that deters bites for up to 8 hours and protects from the sun.

Oral Care Products

Oral care products like denture cleaner, filling materials and wax for braces are all FSA-eligible to keep you smiling.

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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.

Eligibility
Photo by Coline Haslé on Unsplash

That's Eligible?! Does my FSA cover skin care treatment?

One of the many benefits of an FSA is that it covers everyday health care costs, which can range from regular medical checkups to blood pressure monitors. But if you have an FSA, you may be wondering whether or not skin problems fall under standard healthcare expenses covered under your account. In other words, are dermatology treatments eligible expenses with your FSA?

Let's take a look at how skin care ailments are handled with an FSA, so you know what you can and can't pay for when dealing with these problems.

Which dermatology treatments are covered?

It's always important to remember that your FSA covers healthcare treatments that are defined by the IRS as medical care, which refers to health care services that can diagnose, mitigate, prevent, cure, and/or treat an injury, illness, disease, or symptoms of a disease.

Skin care treatments that are designed to alleviate a medical condition are covered with your FSA, including:

  • Dermatologist – Standard visits to a dermatologist to treat medical skin conditions are an eligible expense.
  • Acne – A condition resulting from oily skin and dead skin cells that causes pimples and bumps to grow on your face, ruining proms and selfies. Note: Acne medication will typically require an Rx for FSA-reimbursement.
  • Eczema – An inflammation of the skin that causes you to itch.*
  • Psoriasis – A condition that causes skin cells to form scales that are dry and itchy.*
  • Rosacea – A condition that causes red bumps on your face, similar to a deep rash.*

* An Rx may be required for FSA reimbursement.

But wait, there's more. Believe it or not, even Botox injections – yes, the same Botox that made red carpet interviews so fun these past few decades -- are an eligible expense if your doctor is using it to treat a medical condition such as excessive sweating, overactive bladder, and chronic migraines. This treatment may require a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN), so check with your FSA administrator on what may be required.

Prescription medication and other treatments for these conditions are eligible expenses, but depending on the type of treatment you need, you may have to get a doctor's prescription or an LMN to receive reimbursement for your expenses. But don't worry if you still have questions -- your FSA administrator can tell you whether the skin care treatment you need requires either of the above for reimbursement.

We've barely scratched the surface on the skin care products available to you. Want a quick snapshot of how many skin care products are FSA-eligible? Start here.

Skin treatments that aren't covered with your FSA

Any skin care treatment that's primarily for cosmetic purposes isn't covered by your FSA. These types of treatments are categorized as general health services that aren't considered medical care and not eligible for reimbursement with an FSA.

Examples of general health skin treatments include laser hair removal, facelifts, acid peels, chemical peels, laser resurfacing, and microdermabrasion. While these treatments may provide benefits for your skin, they aren't used primarily to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure or prevent a medical condition.

Skin care isn't something you may not think about very often (even though you should), but with your FSA, you can schedule regular visits to a dermatologist to make sure that you're screened for something as potentially serious as skin cancer. So continue using sunscreen and other Use FSA-eligible skin care products (hello, light therapy!) to keep your skin healthy and to help maintain your overall health.

FSA-eligible skin care products we love

dpl II Panel Professional Acne Treatment System

Treat your full face, neck, chest, hands and back in just 8 minutes.

Broad Spectrum Sun and Skin Protection

A variety of broad-spectrum sunscreens with SPF15+ protection are FSA-/HSA-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.

Eligibility

Asked and Answered: Can I use my FSA for learning disability testing?

When it comes to flexible spending accounts (FSAs) the lion's share of the coverage goes to general health products. And that's understandable, considering how great they are for providing your family with wellness products, tax-free.

But one area that may deserve more coverage is the FSA-eligibility of mental and behavioral well-being. There might be some confusion about the subject, so let's find out how your FSA can benefit anyone in your family currently experiencing learning disabilities.

What's learning disability testing (and is it FSA-eligible)?

Let's lead with the good news -- in most cases, testing to diagnose learning disabilities is FSA-eligible. This is because learning disabilities fall under the wide range of conditions and treatments that meet standard FSA requirements. Some administrators may need a letter of medical necessity (LMN) from a doctor before granting eligibility.

Examples of testing for learning disabilities include diagnosing mental and physical hurdles, like neurological issues, vision impairment, hearing problems, birth defects, head injuries, ADHD and dyslexia.

Let's look at that last one, since dyslexia is a common diagnosis, impacting around 15-20% of both children and adults in the U.S, affecting their ability to read and speak. While there isn't a cure, tutoring and educational therapy is a common and effective treatment.

But many parents and guardians don't realize dyslexia testing and treatment is FSA-eligible with an LMN. The letter needs to explain why the condition requires treatment, how the treatment will improve the condition, and how long the treatment will last.

Education and developmental services

What many FSA owners might not know is that education and developmental treatment are also eligible, as long as the programs are used for overcoming a learning disability, not just for behavioral issues. And like other conditions that may require an LMN, once a doctor determines the treatment isn't necessary anymore, your FSA no longer applies.

But if this sounds like your situation, you should definitely ask about FSA reimbursement for tuition for special needs schooling, specialized coaching, or any program that helps a child overcome a learning disability caused by mental or physical impairments. These programs may include:

  • Early childhood intervention
  • Occupational therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Patterning exercises
  • Sensory integration training

In each case, the costs of these treatments are eligible for reimbursement, as long as a doctor has made the recommendation. You might find your FSA is able to cover costs of braille lessons, remedial language development training, or even enrollment into specialized schools that can better serve the needs of your child.

Diagnosing and treating learning disabilities can be tough, which is why anyone facing them should see if potential therapies are FSA-eligible, so they can focus more on overcoming these hurdles and getting the treatments their families need.

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From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our weekly Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears every Wednesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

Eligibility

Asked and Answered: Can I use my FSA to get my child braces?

One of the great things about an FSA is that it can be used to cover a wide range of medical expenses. But there are so many FSA-eligible items and services, some people miss out on saving for some major expenses.

Well, here's a reason to smile -- if an orthodontist recently recommended braces for your child, you can use your FSA to pay for them.

So, what's covered?

Orthodontists recommend braces for a variety of different reasons. Underbites, overbites, crooked teeth, overcrowding, and gaps all warrant treatment. While many of these issues may seem like cosmetic issues, they can lead to serious medical problems down the road if left untreated. Tooth decay, toothaches, gum disease, and headaches can all develop from misaligned teeth.

Because of this, the IRS defines orthodontia treatment as medical care, which means it's FSA-eligible.

What to expect with treatment (and payments)

Braces are an expensive, long-term treatment. While the cost will vary based on the severity of your child's case, the average cost of traditional braces is $5,000-6,000.

Fortunately, many dental plans already cover part of the treatment costs. You can then use your FSA to pay for any remaining costs that aren't already covered. And if you don't have dental insurance, your FSA can be put towards the total cost of treatment.

Since braces are usually needed for an extended period of time, payment doesn't always coincide with each treatment. Your child may need to visit the orthodontist several times in a single month (especially in the beginning), and there may be times where you'll go several months without needing an adjustment.

Because of this, many orthodontists offer multiple payment options. These options allow you to pay for everything up front, or set up a monthly installment plan. Regardless of which payment method you use, you can use your FSA to cover the costs.

If you do choose to pay monthly, most orthodontists will require a fee upfront before treatment begins. The good news is that this too is an eligible expense.

If required, most FSA administrators even allow for prepayment of orthodontia expenses. This makes orthodontia treatment unique from more traditional dental procedures like extractions or fillings, which need to be paid for and performed within the benefit period and after the service has been incurred.

So, what are my choices?

There are quite a few types of braces available these days, and fortunately, all of them are eligible for FSA coverage. Traditional metal braces are a popular option since they're the most effective and usually the most affordable.

But your child may prefer a less noticeable option like ceramic braces, which are still mounted to the front of each tooth, but are white so that they aren't quite as noticeable. You might even consider lingual braces, which are worn on the inner-side of the teeth.

Invisalign braces are another popular choice since they're virtually invisible (hence the name) and are considered more comfortable to wear.

Getting braces usually requires X-rays, moldings, and consultation fees prior to treatment. These expenses typically aren't included in the cost of the braces and are billed separately.

The good news is that these expenses are also FSA-eligible, as are additional products that may be recommended by your orthodontist, like headgear, dental wax and elastics, oral remedies for discomfort and irritation, and retainers once the braces finally come off.

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