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Living Well

Asked and Answered: Are there FSA-eligible ways to keep holiday weight off?

The holiday season is here, and for many people that means eating more and moving less. This often leads to a frustrating amount of weight gain that people struggle with throughout the winter months.

But maintaining a healthy weight should be a priority no matter the season, since it's well known that the excess pounds can lead to health complications like diabetes and high blood pressure. When it comes to holiday weight gain, the best way to combat it is to avoid gaining it in the first place.

Memberships to health clubs and gyms typically aren't eligible for FSA reimbursement, but here are some other smart ways you can utilize your FSA funds to keep the holiday weight off. (As always, we're not doctors - see a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your weight loss and fitness routines.)

Diet foods are (usually) not eligible!

We understand this question… especially during a time of year when our celebrations center on food and drink. But special foods necessary to treat obesity are not FSA-eligible, since they may also satisfy normal nutritional requirements. But, specialty foods designed for specific treatment of a condition may qualify if necessary for a medical condition, yet only the excess cost of the special product is reimbursable.

Long story short? Most foods are ineligible for reimbursement with your tax-free health funds. But speak to your FSA administrator to see if your needs qualify.

Stay active

Staying active is one of the most important steps you can take in preventing holiday weight gain. And while you can't buy yourself a new bicycle with your FSA funds, you can invest in some equipment that will make your workouts more comfortable and prevent injury.

  • If you experience joint pain while exercising - braces, supports and many orthopedic insoles are eligible for reimbursement.
  • Kinesiology tape is a popular option for pain relief and support among athletes and is an FSA-eligible item.
  • Make sure to refill your first-aid kit. Items like bandages, cold packs, and gauze pads are all FSA-eligible so you will have what you need on hand if you do get hurt while working out.

If you're not already physically active, you don't need to wait until spring comes to start an exercise routine. Start small by incorporating more walking, simple strength training, and stretching into your daily routine.

You can build up to more intense activities over time. Before you get started, make an appointment with your physician to make sure you're clear to start an exercise regimen - you can always use your FSA funds to cover the copay.

Sleep better

Getting a good night's sleep has been proven to play a big part in maintaining a healthy weight. But not everyone is able to get a full eight hours of shut-eye a night, especially with the added stress of the holiday season. So use your FSA funds on these items that can help you get the rest you need.

  • Select eye masks for pain relief are available with heating and cooling functions, and with soothing scents.
  • Acupressure pillows can help relieve tension and allow you to relax.
  • If you find yourself frequently struggling, sleep aids are eligible with a prescription.

See a professional

If you find yourself struggling with weight gain and eating right, you should consider setting up an appointment with a dietician or nutritionist. These professionals can help you take stock of your diet and make changes to get you to a healthy weight. Before you make the appointment, check in with your FSA administrator - some require a Letter of Medical Necessity for reimbursement.

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Active? Try these...

KT TAPE PRO, Pre-cut

Keeps you pain free and supported exactly where you need it.

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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: Can you explain the OTC prescription requirement?

Since open enrollment is well underway, and we're speaking to a growing group of new FSA owners, it's only right that we revisit one of our most-common questions -- why do we need a prescription to buy over-the-counter (OTC) meds with our FSA cards?

If you've wondered about this, we definitely understand your confusion. Obviously, if you wanted to purchase OTC products like ibuprofen or cold medicine with a standard form of payment, you wouldn't need a script for them. So why would you need to prove a medical need to use tax-free funds? Let's get one thing out of the way, it's a requirement imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and enforced by the IRS.

A quick history lesson

The answer dates back to January 1, 2011 -- a veritable lifetime in consumer healthcare years -- when the government passed PPACA. This law established a new uniform standard for medical expenses, meaning OTC products containing an active medical ingredient of any kind would require a prescription from a doctor.

But the government isn't doing this to make things more difficult, or even to discourage use of tax-free funds. Instead, the initial thinking was that this OTC provision would help raise revenue to expand coverage for uninsured Americans.

So, long story short, if you want to buy these products without having to pay taxes on them, you'll need to verify a qualified medical need for doing so. This includes the items mentioned above, alongside any other pain relievers, cold and allergy remedies, and even cough drops.


Some OTC favorites

Xyzal Allergy 24 HR Tablets, 55 ct

$28.99

Aquaphor Healing Ointment Jar, 14 oz

$21.99


Don't worry!

It's not like the OTC rule applies to everything on our site - just things that contain an active medicinal ingredient. So, medical supplies like crutches, bandages and even diagnostic devices still qualify for FSA reimbursement without any other documentation. In fact, of the 4,000+ eligible items in our store, only a small percentage requires a prescription, so shop with confidence!

And to add to that confidence and create less confusion, we even make it easy for you to decipher which products require a prescription and which do not, with a simple check mark symbol for no prescription required and an Rx symbol for when it is.

Are there changes coming?

There's always hope, but we don't like to think of the OTC provision as "something to work around.". Does it make things slightly more complicated for FSA users? Maybe… but we have our own answer for this -- the Prescription Process.

By using this simple tool, if you purchase eligible OTC medicines at FSAstore.com, you just need to click on the prescription banner to get started. Then, you simply need to provide a physician's name, address and phone number, and our pharmacy partner will reach out directly for the required docs to help you obtain the prescription to complete the purchase. No other work is required.

So, reform might be underway in Washington, but at least you know you have a way to buy these products tax-free, with minimal fuss. Once you start seeing the savings, we think you'll realize it's about as effortless as can be.

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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: Can I use my funds for children's dental care? (Post-Halloween edition)

Halloween has been over for nearly a week, and there's a good chance your home is still loaded with candy (and empty candy wrappers). But the effects of candy on your children's teeth might linger a little longer without proper care. Whether you like or not, there's a good chance your child has consumed a lot of candy in the weeks surrounding Halloween.

Don't get us wrong - we love candy (one look around our office tells the story). And it's a big part of the holidays, kicked off by Halloween, but it can have negative effects on your child's dental health. According to a recent study published by BMC Public Health that reinforces what we always feared -- sugar has been shown to cause tooth decay.

But here's the deal: sugar is here to stay. Instead of panicking about the sugar your child has consumed, it might be the perfect time for a dental check up or other treatments.

And here's the good news—dental treatments for your child are likely FSA-eligible, which means you'll be able to save money on treatments. Here's what you need to know about post-Halloween dental care for your child.

FSA-eligible dental treatments

There are many dental treatments that are FSA-eligible and luckily, that means the same treatments are FSA-eligible for your children as well. In fact, depending on the scope of your dental insurance (and whether you even have coverage), some treatments that are FSA-eligible might not be covered under your dental plan.

This is great news for your wallet because it means you'll be able to save money on dental expenses, even if you don't have coverage for the treatments. Depending on your income and tax bracket, you could save up to 30% on eligible expenses.

However, there's one aspect of dental care that's not FSA-eligible: any treatment that's for purely cosmetic purposes, like teeth whitening.

Here is a list of dental treatments that you might want to consider for your children. Even though these treatments are FSA-eligible, it's always a good idea to confirm with your plan administrator that a treatment is covered before your appointment.

Teeth cleanings

Teeth cleanings are one of the most important dental treatments for your children, especially after Halloween. For children, teeth cleanings should occur twice per year, and the cost for cleanings can vary between $75 and $200. These include a few different procedures:

  1. Physical exam
  2. X-rays (typically only once per year)
  3. Removal of plaque and tartar
  4. Fluoride treatment
  5. Check for cavities

If you're concerned about your child's dental health, a regular check-up, or cleaning, is a great place to start. During the cleaning, the dentist will check for any potential dental problems and recommend further treatment as needed.

Fillings for cavities

After regular cleanings, cavities are one of the most common dental treatments. If the dentist finds a cavity in your child's mouth, then he or she will recommend that your child get a filling. Luckily, dental fillings are FSA-eligible. Even though the percentage of kids who have cavities is declining, it's always a good idea to have a dentist check for cavities during your child's regular cleanings.

Treatment for gingivitis, gum recession and other concerns

Treatments for diagnosed dental diseases are also FSA-eligible. Whether your child has gingivitis and gum recession or needs dental surgery or a root canal, you can use your FSA to pay for it.

Braces and orthodontics

Here's something to smile about—if your orthodontist recommends braces or other orthodontic treatment for your child, you can use your FSA to pay for it. As long as the treatment is for a specific health concern—like an overbite or underbite, which can lead to health problems down the road—it is FSA-eligible.

Bottom line

There's no need to panic if your child enjoys more candy than normal during Halloween. But watching your children wolf down six pieces of chocolate in under five minutes on Halloween night, might be the perfect reminder to schedule their next dental appointment. Just don't forget that your FSA can help keep costs at bay until next Halloween.

Oral care for "bigger kids" too!

iSonic Ultrasonic Portable Denture & Retainer Cleaner

Large tank capacity fits accommodate pair of dentures, retainers, aligners, dental and sleep apnea appliances, mouth guard.

$59.99

dpl® Oral Care Light Therapy System

The dpl® therapy system is a drug-free, oral light therapy option which can be applied to your specific and individual needs.

$99.99


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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.

Basics

Asked and Answered: How much should I contribute to my FSA?

If you just opened (or are about to open) an FSA during open enrollment, you know it's smart a money move, but you have no idea how much you should allocate. You've done your research and know that your employer offers flexible savings accounts, but you're not sure how to find your FSA allocation number.

In fact, you may not even be sure how much you spent on health expenses last year. Or maybe you had the perfect allocation total last year, but life has changed since then. (That tends to happen a lot in my household.)

If this sounds like you, don't panic. You've already taken the first step and decided that you want to open an FSA. The next step is simple: use an FSA calculator.

(As always, keep in mind that we're not financial professionals, nor is this website aiming to provide financial or tax advice. Be sure to speak with a qualified financial adviser before making determinations about your accounts.)

Calculate your FSA number

The best way to determine how much money you should allocate to your FSA is with an FSA calculator. The calculator asks you to input a variety of information, including your income and estimated expenses for each category. After you input your numbers, you're shown exactly how much you should allocate based on your estimates. You also learn how much you could save on taxes.

For example, if you earn $45,000 per year and allocate $2,500 to your FSA for health care expenses, your estimated tax savings from your FSA is $812.

But here's the deal—in order to use the calculator to accurately estimate your health care expenses, you need to have an idea of what those expenses will be. If you just went through a big life change or are a first-time FSA user, that might seem difficult. Luckily, it's not as hard as it seems.

Here are some expenses you might want to keep in mind.

If you're a new parent…

Congratulations! If you're a new parent, your health care expenses will likely increase thanks to an uptick in doctors appointments and health-related items for your baby. In general, new parents should expect to increase their FSA allocation.

(Plus, this might be a great time to open a dependent care FSA to pay for eligible child care expenses.)

If you're recently divorced…

If you're recently divorced and don't have children, your health care expenses might decrease because you're only responsible for your own health care expenses now. The best way to find your allocation number is to review last year's expenses and calculate your new number based only on your own expenses.

However, if you're recently divorced and have children, your FSA allocation number might stay the same or even increase, depending on your custody arrangement. Also, if you're planning on paying for daycare for your children, it might be a good idea to open a Dependent Care FSA.

If you have a recent health diagnosis…

If you've recently received a health diagnosis and are unsure what your health care expenses will look like now, it might be a good idea to increase your FSA contributions. Even if you allocate an extra $50 per month, it might make a big financial difference throughout the year. Plus, you might spend some of the money on FSA-eligible products related to your diagnosis.

If you're a first-time FSA user....

Welcome to the club! If you're a first time FSA user, it might be challenging to find the perfect allocation number, but that's okay. Even if you only put $100 per month towards you FSA, you could save hundreds of dollars in taxes.

Do your best to calculate your contribution number based on last year's health expenses, but don't worry if it's a little low or high. Next year, you'll be able to calculate more accurately.

Bottom line

It's okay if you don't find your "ideal" FSA contribution number. The most important thing is that you're starting to save money in your FSA and prepare for your health care expenses. Your bank account will thank you.

Smart, eligible buys...

Battle Creek Pain Relief Bed Heating Pad, 18" x 36"

The perfect solution for people with poor circulation or cold feet.

$69.99

Caring Mill Assorted Variety Bandages, 280 ea

This is a great bandage set that offers a variety of sizes to cover the most common medical situations.

$10.99


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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.

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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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.