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Eligibility
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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.

Basics

Real Money: Why your FSA doesn't let you stock up on products

An FSA is a "use-it-or-lose-it" plan, which means if you don't spend all the funds in the account before the end of the year, you lose that money. So, what happens if it's December and you still have a lot of money left in your FSA account? Can you stock up on eligible products to make sure that you don't lose those funds?

The answer is no. But, there are still some options that can help you avoid this situation, so let's take a look at how you can take advantage of all your FSA benefits before year's end, while doing so within the guidelines of your FSA.

What does "stockpiling" mean with an FSA?

While the term hasn't been fully defined, according to informal remarks made by an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official, stockpiling eligible items under your FSA means that you buy more items than you're able to use before the end of the taxable year.

Buying any more than three of the same item could be considered "stockpiling." By the very nature of FSAs, any product you buy should be to fill a need for you, your spouse or a qualified dependent. Because of this, the IRS doesn't let you to stock up on eligible items with your FSA, and your administrator can usually figure out that you're stockpiling by analyzing how many items you bought towards the end of the year.

Let's say it's December 1st and you still have $600 left in your FSA. You realize that you're running out of nasal spray, so you decide to buy 25 packs of your favorite saline solution, so you can stock up for the rest of the year and into the next, and use up the remaining balance in your FSA.

The problem is that unless you're somehow going to use all that saline solution in the next 30 days, your FSA administrator may flag that purchase as stockpiling.

If you stock up at the end of the year, your FSA administrator is probably going to send you an alert to inform you that this kind of spending isn't allowed and that those purchases wouldn't be eligible for reimbursement.

Take advantage of rollover and grace period options

The best way to avoid stockpiling is to spend down your FSA balance before you get to the month of December when the mad scramble to use your benefits tends to hit the hardest.

But if you find that you can't quite pull that off, it's important to know that some FSA plans allow you to carry over up to $500 of unused funds into the next calendar year. If your plan doesn't offer that rollover option, it may offer a grace period of two-and-a-half months at the end of the plan year.

This grace period carries over the remaining balance in your FSA into mid-March of the next calendar year for those running on a calendar year plan, which gives you more time to spend that money before you lose it.

At the beginning of the plan year, make sure you ask your FSA administrator whether your plan offers a rollover or a grace period option so you can plan your spending well in advance.

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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.

Eligibility

Flex-Ed: Revisiting FSAs and medical marijuana

Not to start this article with bad puns, but one of the most burning questions our readers have every year is, "Why isn't medical marijuana FSA-eligible?" While a good portion of the country still considers marijuana an illegal substance, there's been a steady shift in state laws, allowing qualified patients to use medical marijuana for more-targeted purposes, such as pain relief.

What is medical marijuana?

In short, medical marijuana is marijuana. The same marijuana people have argued, fought, debated and sung chill jams about since the beginning of time. The "medical" part is nothing more than a way to distribute the product to users deemed eligible by a medical professional, to use it to treat and lessen the severity of disease symptoms.

And no, this isn't limited to the kind you smoke. It can also deliver the same effects through being inhaled or ingested in food, tea, pills or even oils. Depending on which state a person lives in, qualifying for this type of treatment requires meeting certain guidelines and having specific qualifying conditions.

In other words, you can't just show up at a licensed dispensary and complain about migraines. After thorough diagnosis, the most common conditions for which medical marijuana treatments are approved are Tourette's Syndrome, epilepsy or other seizures, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, and the effects of ongoing cancer treatments.

Another look at medical marijuana in the U.S.

November 5, 1996 is a banner day for those who support the lifting of marijuana laws in the United States. That's the day California became the first state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana for medical use. Since then, similar laws have been passed in 29 states, plus the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. However, marijuana possession and use is still illegal under federal law, and it's listed as a Schedule 1 drug.

That said, there's some serious variation in medical cannabis laws from state to state, including how it's produced and distributed, how it can be consumed, and what medical conditions it can be used for.

So, why isn't medical marijuana eligible?

At first glance, it seems that medical marijuana would be eligible for reimbursement from an FSA because it's often used to treat legitimate medical conditions. However, any procedure, service, or item that's illegal under any law in effect where it is purchased or used is ineligible for reimbursement from an FSA.

Despite some loosening restrictions across the nation, medical marijuana continues to be listed as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law. This means it's considered to have a high potential for abuse, and no legitimate medical use.

Wait...what?

Regardless of changing medical opinions, and approval for medical use in a growing number of states, marijuana continues to be illegal under federal law for any purpose, including medical needs.

This is all detailed in IRS Publication 502, which lists eligible medical and dental expenses for tax deductions and reimbursements, specifically states that marijuana is not eligible under the "Controlled Substances" section, claiming:

"You can't include in medical expenses amounts you pay for controlled substances (such as marijuana, laetrile, etc.) that aren't legal under federal law, even if such substances are legalized by state law."

Even if federal law changes to allow the use of medical marijuana, it would have to be dispensed in line with the different rules and regulations of each state.

For instance, New York allows medical marijuana only in 30-day, non-smoking batches, whereas states like Connecticut allow users to hold up to 2.5 ounces at a time. Some states have designated dispensaries -- the ONLY places people can legally purchase the product in those locations.

Therefore, because marijuana is illegal under federal law everywhere in the United States, unless major changes happen in the coming years, medical marijuana will remain ineligible for FSA reimbursement, regardless of how many state laws change to approve its use.

But there's hope for those seeking changes to these laws. The American Medical Association and American College of Physicians don't take a position on the legalization of medical cannabis, but have called for the Schedule 1 label to be reviewed. The American Academy of Family Physicians also doesn't take a position, but does support rescheduling in order to further research.

What about this CBD that's popping up everywhere?

In addition to states that have passed medical marijuana laws, a number of states have passed restrictive laws that limit the permitted concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis.

The purpose of these laws is to allow for the use of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that's been shown to be effective in the treatment of seizure disorders, most notably in children. The use of cannabidiol to treat seizures gained increased attention with a number of media reports in 2012 and 2013, and by 2014 a number of states had enacted legislation to allow for its use.

But it all comes down to the source of the CBD. If it's derived from hemp, which has no psychoactive effects, the law doesn't seem to mind it. Hemp products are legal and available in all types of different industries across America. Marijuana, on the other hand, is a much different story. And this is why the source of a CBD product is crucial to its legal status in each state.

Long story short -- it's going to be a while before we even get to discussing the FSA eligibility of CBD. And for that matter, any product related to marijuana. But each day brings another update, so if you support the use of medical marijuana to alleviate medical conditions, take note of local activity and find the right way to support the cause.

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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

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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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
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Real Money: What's the deal with FSAs and weight loss programs?

Maintaining a healthy weight has a whole heap of benefits, one of which is warding off medical conditions. Diet and exercise is important whether you're just looking to fit into your jeans or keep up with your little ones. Sometimes you need a little push and signing up for a weight loss program could help keep you accountable and increases your chances of success.

Well, weight loss programs don't qualify for FSA reimbursement at this time. You can only use your FSA funds for weight loss programs in very limited circumstances, and even then, you will likely need to provide extensive documentation in order to be reimbursed. Before signing up for any type of weight loss program in which you plan to use your FSA funds, make sure to talk with your FSA plan administrator.

So, what weight loss products and services are eligible?

Like any other health care product, you're only able to use your FSA funds for a weight loss program if the purpose is to treat, mitigate, cure, diagnose or prevent a specific illness. This condition needs to be diagnosed by a physician and may include conditions such as obesity, heart disease and hypertension. In short, if you're doing it to fit into those jeans, that's not going to make the cut.

Once your physician does state that you should lose weight specifically to treat an illness, there may be related expenses that will qualify for FSA reimbursement. (Emphasis on "may.") This may include membership fees for a weight loss program and attending meetings. Gym, health club and spa memberships could be tougher to get approved, but you may be able to use your FSA on fees for weight loss activities with supporting documentation submitted to your administrator.

If your physician prescribes food that will help you treat your illness, you may be able to deduct a portion of that expense as well. The food can't just be part of your regular diet and must be for the purpose for treating the illness.

In other words, diet pills and meal substitutes probably won't count as an FSA-qualified special food. If there is a special food specifically prescribed to treat your condition, and the cost of that food is more than the cost of a similar food, you may be able to be reimbursed for the difference in cost.

Some FSAs may require a letter of medical necessity or similar form of documentation in order to be able to be reimbursed for these expenses. This letter basically verifies that your weight loss program or special food is specifically for the treatment of a disease. As each FSA administrator has different requirements, you'll want to check with them first on exactly what this letter will need to include.

How much can I submit for FSA reimbursement?

You can only submit FSA expenses that qualify for reimbursement as outlined previously, and only up to the amount you have elected to contribute to your FSA.

If you're interested in losing weight for health reasons, it's best to speak with your doctor beforehand. He or she will be able to assess your situation and see what programs or regiments will help. And if you're interested in involving your FSA with that weight loss goal, you definitely want to check in with your FSA administrator on what might qualify.

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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.