For many people, the word "disability" evokes images of people who use wheelchairs or canes. But here's the deal—this common perception of disabilities is severely limited. In fact, according to a recent survey, 74% of people with a disability don't use any device or aid that would serve as a visual signal that they have a disability.
Invisible disabilities can range from diabetes to fibromyalgia. Even though there are hundreds of disabilities that aren't noticeable, people with unseen disabilities are often left out of health and wellness discussions. But here's the good news: if you live with an invisible disability, your FSA funds might be able to help you deal with it.
We're not doctors, nor should any of the following be considered medical advice. But coming from our own experience, here are a few good ways your FSA can help you deal with these conditions.
If you have diabetes…
According to a recent report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. In other words, if you have diabetes, you're not alone. But because diabetes is considered an invisible disability, it might feel like you are since you can't always tell if someone else has diabetes.
If you have diabetes, you probably need to buy a lot of different supplies that range from glucose monitors to insulin, and even glucose tablets. The good news is that supplies for diabetes treatment are FSA-eligible.
In fact, there are hundreds of different options to choose from. But in addition to your medically necessary medicine, it's also important to control your stress levels. Luckily, a lot of stress relieving tactics are free and only require a few minutes of your time.
Preventative care: Unfortunately, many people who have diabetes or prediabetes don't even know it. The most effective way to monitor your health and prevent diabetes is to regularly visit your doctor and get an annual wellness exam.
If you have fibromyalgia…
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disability and symptoms include widespread joint pain, nerve pain and fatigue. Most people who have fibromyalgia appear able-bodied. However, movement is usually painful and flare-ups can appear at any time.
Because there isn't a cure for fibromyalgia, the most important thing you can do is manage your symptoms. Symptoms and pain can vary, but they usually include joint, muscle and nerve pain. Because of that, FSA-eligible pain relief like heating pads, heat wraps and TENS units are often helpful for pain management.
Due to the large amount of symptoms and complex nature of fibromyalgia, it is a good idea to find a healthcare provider you trust and work together to find solutions that can help with the symptoms. Some of those solutions might include prescription medicine like antidepressants, pain medication or sleeping pills for insomnia.
Preventative care: Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is not preventable. People with fibromyalgia focus on preventing flare-ups by making sure they get adequate sleep (these products might be able to help) and regular exercise that isn't too extreme.
If you have epilepsy…
Nearly 3.4 million Americans live with epilepsy, and many more people will be diagnosed within their lifetime. Though the symptoms are often evident, it's not always the case. Like most invisible disabilities, it's impossible to tell if someone has epilepsy when you meet them.
For many people with epilepsy, the initial diagnosis can come as an upsetting shock because of the long-term implications about health and safety. But even though there isn't a cure, most people with epilepsy go on to lives that are both personally and professionally fulfilling.
If you have epilepsy, one of the most important things you can do is to diligently take your medication. If you struggle to remember to take your medication, a weekly pill organizer might be able to help. In addition to physical concerns about living with epilepsy, it's also important to take care of your mental well-being. This might mean joining a support group for people with epilepsy or working with a therapist.
Preventative care: For most epilepsy cases, there is not a clear cause. However, you can take some steps to help prevent seizures. Two of the most common suggestions are to make sure you get enough sleep at night and avoid alcohol and drug use.
Whether your disability is visible or invisible, it's important to prioritize your health. Regardless of what society might have you believe, every disability is valid and deserves attention, care and treatment.
Maintain your health
Medicool PenPlus Diabetic Case
This case protects all your valuable supplies. Its stylish ergonomic design makes it the perfect case for anyone.
Natural Neck Hot/Cold Wrap, Lavender
Individual comfort pockets are designed to target aches and pains, keeping beads in place for balanced hot and cold therapy.
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.
No doubt that diabetes is expensive. Between appointments, getting equipment and purchasing healthier food that doesn't raise your blood sugar, it can be hard to squeeze all that out of your budget. But, paying for these necessities doesn't have to be such a burden. If you take advantage of your FSA and manage it right, you can offset costs.
Here are some smart (and eligible) ways to reduce the costs of your current diabetes routine.
Estimate how much you'll need each month
Estimating the amount you'll be spending will help to figure out how much to put into your FSA account. It'll help to lessen the chances of money being left over at the end of the year. If your employer makes contributions to your FSA and you don't use it all, that free money is sadly gone too (with some limited exceptions).
First, determine what kind of diabetes equipment you can purchase with an FSA. These can include test strips, blood glucose monitors, diabetic socks and lancets to name just a few. You can then try to estimate how much you'll need every month and set aside your pre-tax dollars that way. If you can and if applicable to your FSA, factor in exactly how much your employer contributes so you can add that in your budget.
Take advantage of discounts
You can essentially purchase FSA-eligible items or services anywhere, so why not stretch those dollars? You don't have to stick to your local area to scour for deals. Look online and you could find not only discounted prices, but also digital coupons. Some places even offer promotions for first time customers so try to take advantage of those. (We may know of one…)
Before going crazy and buying up everything in sight, check to see what the shipping costs are. While the supplies itself may be cheap, some places could charge you shipping which negates the discounts.
Upgrade equipment each year
Remember, your FSA money is technically use it or lose it. In other words, whatever you contribute can only be used in that plan year. Sure, you may have a rollover option, but you can only move up to $500 to next year's balance if you do.
If you have a chunk of money at the end of year, consider upgrading any equipment then. It's smart to want to hold out on purchasing any expensive items until necessary, but not spending FSA funds is a big waste. Of course, you can always buy supplies instead of getting new equipment.
Factor in your HSA
If you tend to spend more than $2,700 (the maximum amount you can contribute to an FSA in 2019) each year on diabetic supplies, consider taking advantage of an HSA-qualified plan at open enrollment. HSAs come with higher limits for contributions, but you are only eligible to also participate in an HSA in if you happen to have a limited-purpose FSA -- you typically can't have an FSA and HSA at the same time.
Despite the restrictions of when you can spend your money, FSAs are a great way to save money by not paying taxes on diabetes supplies. But, buying diabetes supplies is just one example of how you can offset your expected healthcare costs with tax-free funds. If you know you're going to need health and wellness products, check our extensive Eligibility List to see if your needs are covered by your FSA.
Blood Glucose Monitor
Know your blood sugar level in seconds with simple and easy-to-use blood glucose monitors.
From lancets to test strips to glucose tablets, keep your blood sugar in your control with a wide range of diabetes supplies.
Whether you budget week-to-week, or plan to use your FSA for bigger things, our weekly Real Money column will help you maximize your flex spending dollars. Look for it every Tuesday, 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.