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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

Podcast-Eligible: Our Co-Host on What He Gets (And What He STILL Doesn’t Get) About FSAs

Kevin is moving to the Pacific Northwest so this is his last episode! To commemorate his time at FSA Store, here's recapping what he learned about FSAs and HSAs before and AFTER joining the company, as well as what he thinks could be done better to benefit and educate regular consumers.

If you want to know what prompted this discussion, check out Kevin's article on spreading the word about FSAs!

And as always, for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Accounts

Flex-Ed: What happens to an FSA when a company folds?

No matter how the economy is doing, companies of all shapes and sizes can go under. (I know, way to start an article on a high note, right?)

But it's an all-too-common reality. If this happens or is happening to you, you're probably wondering what will happen to your insurance benefits — in particular your FSA — if your employer files for bankruptcy. If that's the case, read on to find out how this could affect you and what you can do to prepare.

What kind of bankruptcy?

Yes, it depends on the type of bankruptcy your company is filing for. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy means that your company can reorganize their finances, so your employer could make a round of layoffs or reduce employee benefits and continue running the business.

But a Chapter 7 bankruptcy means that the entire company is shutting down, meaning it needs to liquidate its assets to pay what the company owes their creditors.

What does this mean?

The good news is that if your company is filing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, you may still have a job. If you're lucky, your employer will keep your health benefits intact and you won't be affected. However, if you're one of the many employees that face a layoff, your FSA — and by extension your entire health plan — will be affected.

First, you'll need to see what your employer will give you as a severance package. In most cases, you will have COBRA coverage for at least 12 months after you lose your job, meaning you may be able to access your FSA during that time. Not all employers are required to offer COBRA coverage and not all FSAs are COBRA-eligible, so it's best to check to make sure.

If your employer decides to take away your health insurance benefits, you will lose your FSA. The company is required to inform you at least 60 days before your coverage ends so you can either apply for a new policy by yourself which may or may not include a FSA.

Same goes for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You will lose all your health insurance benefits, including your FSA.

You still have access to your funds

The good news is that whatever you contributed to your FSA is still yours and you can make claims on them as soon as you incurred a qualified medical expense. That means as soon as you find out your company will no longer be providing a FSA or filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, file or check on any outstanding FSA claims you've submitted.

Basically, the "use it or lose it" rule applies except you could be on a tighter deadline. If your employer closes it doors before your claims are paid out, you may have to file what's called a "proof of claims" with the bankruptcy court to get your money back (if that's even allowed at all).

If you're being laid off, you'll need to spend down your FSA before the last day on the job or else you forfeit your FSA contributions. By the way, here's a tip: If this happens, your FSA may allow you to submit claims for eligible expenses even after the date you were laid off, provided they were incurred while you were an active employee.

And another reminder -- FSA elections are available for use in full at any point during the year, regardless of actual contributions you've made to date.

For example, you elected to contribute $1,500 to your FSA and you've only paid in $300. You can file claims for $1,500 worth of qualified medical expenses before your last day of work (or after for expenses incurred during your active employment if your plan allows).

It's never fun thinking about your company shutting its doors, but it pays to be prepared. After all, it's your money at stake.

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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.

FSA Friday - 1/4/19 - Will the government shutdown affect tax-free healthcare?

It's safe to assume not many Americans expected to start 2019 with a partial government shutdown in place, but that's exactly how we're kicking off the year. And this shutdown has had widespread effects, and that includes some areas that hit close to home in our corner of the healthcare world.

The two headlines below give a pretty expansive overview of what's happening and what's "on hold" in consumer healthcare. While "big ticket" health programs, like Obamacare, Medicare and public health surveillance, are protected from the shutdown, there was one key setback from the past few weeks' events.

Government Shutdown Prevents PHIT Act Vote - Anthony Dominic, Club Industry

One major item we've been watching closely is the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, which (if passed) would allow Americans to use tax-free healthcare accounts, like your FSAs and HSAs, to pay for physical activity expenses. The PHIT Act will provide an incentive for adults and their children to get fit, which will help prevent healthcare costs related to preventable chronic diseases.

As the PHIT website says, the act is focused on changing "sick care" into true "healthcare." This legislation was on the docket to be voted on before the end of 2018. Due to the shutdown, it's once again on hold.

While the articles believe the PHIT Act will be reintroduced in both the House and Senate in early 2019, it's unclear when Congress will resume, and how far this will set back a final ruling. Of course, this initiative is no stranger to delays. In the Senate, the legislation was eligible for voting for several weeks before the Dec. 22 shutdown went into effect.

(Plus, it's worth mentioning that the PHIT Act was first introduced in 2011, and only just passed the House this past year.)

How The Government Shutdown Affects Health Programs - Shefali Luthra, Kaiser Health News

As mentioned, funding for "big-ticket" health programs is already in place through September, meaning the shutdown shouldn't affect too many public health sectors.

But, even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) falls under the same services umbrella as Obamacare, a good portion of its food safety funding is on hold from the shutdown, due to its reliance on the Department of Agriculture.

In other words, FDA regulation like food recalls and facility inspections is effectively on hold while 40% of its workers remain furloughed.

The article presents a good overview of what is -- and isn't -- affected by the shutdown, and what the possible effects might be should this work stoppage continue longer than expected.

Of course, we'll be here to cover it should more concerns arise from this unexpected shutdown in Washington.

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FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, 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.







Living Well

[WATCH] "That Extra Mile"

Have a new fitness resolution? You're not alone. And your FSA is right here to help you keep the resolution throughout 2019, thanks to a wide selection of eligible support and pain relief products.

Fuel your resolution with your FSA, so you don't even blink at going the extra mile for your health. Whether you're looking to get back to the gym, or just getting back to your backyard, FSA-eligible products can help you prevent and treat injuries, and help you manage your workout regimen free from pain.

Get relief for your body (and your wallet) with FSA-eligible braces and elastic support items, alongside everything you need for athletic and non-sports injuries, support belts and more.

Basics

Flex-Ed: Understanding your new FSA

Welcome to all the new FSA holders who may have just enrolled! (And welcome back to anyone who just wants a little FSA refresher lesson.) As you probably know, signing up for an FSA is an excellent way to save money on qualified healthcare expenses by contributing pre-tax dollars to your account. But there's a lot to learn when it comes to understanding exactly how your FSA works.

Where to start?

First thing's first; if you want to make the most of your new FSA, take a little time up front to familiarize yourself with the basics. Your FSA administrator is your new best friend. Take time to figure out who that is (your HR department can point you in the right direction) and read through your plan documents.

You should have available to you something called a Summary Plan Description, where you'll find important information about how you can use your FSA, who you can use it for and any important deadlines you should be aware of.

Knowing exactly what you can use your FSA on will save you time and effort in the long run. While there are resources to help you understand exactly what's covered, these commonly covered expenses will ultimately depend on what your plan will allow. Knowing your FSA allowances up front will avoid any issues with you trying to use your account for expenses which may not be qualified.

How can you access your FSA money?

Once you've taken time to familiarize yourself with those plan documents we talked about and learn about your qualified expenses, you're ready to start using your FSA. If you have an FSA card, you should be able to use it for any copays at the doctor or dentist as well as for any out of pocket medical expenses you may incur.

Be sure to keep any receipts when you use your card; your FSA administrator may require that you submit a copy of your receipt along with any other required supporting documentation to show that you used your account correctly (a rule enforced by the IRS).

What if you don't have an FSA card?

If a card isn't part of your FSA plan, you'll need to submit claims to get the money out of your FSA. Most FSA administrators have ways for you to do this easily online, so check in with them about the options that you have available.

While the claims process may seem a bit overwhelming to start, there should be clearly laid out forms to help you through it. Claim forms will typically request information about the types of medical services or items that you received or purchased, the dates in which the expenses incurred, who your medical provider was, etc.

Make sure to include copies of your receipts or other appropriate documentation with your claim, such as an explanation of benefits that shows how your expense was applied to your insurance. Doing this up front will help to ensure that your claim gets approved and you get your money quicker.

Do you really have to rush to spend your money?

One of the best parts about an FSA is that every dollar you elect to set aside is available to you on the first day of your plan year, but that doesn't mean you need to rush to spend it. In fact, FSAs can be a useful tool in managing your year-round spending, there when you need it to cover those common out of pocket costs like co-pays, deductibles, prescriptions, glasses, dentists visits and so much more. You can even use it throughout the year for everyday medical expenses like sunscreen, band-aids and contact lens solution.

If you're worried about your end of year deadline already, one of the most common misconceptions about FSA accounts is that you'll end up with a bunch of unspent money at the end of the year that you'll lose after the deadline.

While it's true that your FSA funds may be subject to a "use it or lose it" policy, planning ahead will help you prevent this situation all together. Armed with the information on exactly what you can use your FSA for, you should be able to find thousands of ways to use your FSA all year long.

Learning more about your FSA

If you still need more information, it's important to utilize all the tools available to make the most of your FSA funds. Some examples of helpful resources include:

  • An eligibility list, which will show you exactly what's eligible and any conditions that need to be met.
  • An FSA calculator can help you determine how much money you'll save with your FSA account. It's an indispensable tool when it comes to estimating your medical expenses for the upcoming year and how much money from each paycheck should be contributed in order for you to see the biggest benefit. All you need to do is enter a few basic questions to get started.
  • Other tools and resources, like articles and more, can help you keep track of the latest FSA developments.

If you've made it this far, you're off to a good start. We know just how great an FSA can be for the millions of Americans who take advantage of them and we're certain that with this information in hand, you'll see just how great they are too.

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

Podcast-Eligible: Deadline Bling

The 12/31 deadline is approaching, and if you have an FSA through your employer (and don't have the 2.5 month grace period or $500 rollover), there's a good chance your FSA deadline is coming in the next few weeks! As always, please check with your HR department for the specific end date of your plan year!

In this episode, we recap some of our favorite FSA-eligible products of the year, and help you shop based on how much you have left in your account. (Don't worry about taking notes - we'll provide links to all of our favorite products below the podcast link.)

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On average, about $30 is forfeited each year by individual FSAs. This might not seem like a lot, but it adds up to millions of unspent dollars annually across the country. Since it's your money, check out the show to see how Kevin and Sean can help you avoid deadline oversights.

We also have a comprehensive 2018 FSA Deadline Buying Guide that highlights our team's best buying bets for every type of customer. Here are some of Kevin and Sean's favorite FSA-eligible products:

$50 and below

$50-$200

$200 and above

If you have FSA money to spend before 12/31, come visit us! We'll accept orders with your FSA card until 12 pm PST - no other retailer can say that. Happy deadline season and we'll see you in 2019!

Basics

Flex-Ed: When you over-allocate your FSA

You had the best intentions. You never meant for it to happen. But you've over-allocated your FSA savings for the year. What can you do to fix this issue?

FSAs have a contribution limit set yearly by the IRS. For 2019 that limit is $2,700 and there is a natural drive to contribute up to the yearly limit since the dollars come out of your paycheck pre-tax.

An over-allocation problem arises when you don't have enough qualified medical expenses to spend that entire amount because FSA funds (for the most part) are "use it or lose it," meaning any money left in your account at the end of year is lost, with a few deadline exceptions.

Maybe you overestimated how much you would be spending on medical expenses, or your circumstances changed and expenses you expected to have to cover are no longer relevant. Either way, the end result is the same. The end of your FSA plan year is looming, and you have unspent allocated money that came out of your paycheck in danger of being forfeited.

Relief for over-allocation

There might be a slight reprieve in your plan in that companies can offer two possible remedies – either a 2 ½ month grace period to spend the previous year's funds or allow for up to $500 to roll over to the next year, but companies can't offer both options to you and they don't have to offer either. If you are over-allocated, the first place to look for relief is to find out if your company offers either option.

A second area is to go back over your medical spending during the plan's year and find out if you've paid out of pocket for expenses that are covered by your FSA. A surprising number of products and medical services are FSA-eligible and you might have directly paid for something that is reimbursable by your FSA. Track down those receipts and apply your FSA money to those expenses.

This can also come into play for expenses incurred late in the plan year. You typically have a run out period, such as March 31 after a hard spending deadline of December 31 to submit claims. You won't be able to incur any new expenses during this time, but expenses you incurred prior to December 31 can continue to be submitted for reimbursement.

A third area of over-allocation relief is to dive into the wide variety of eligible products and services and spend the remainder of your FSA before reaching the deadline. You can replenish medicine cabinet staples such as over-the-counter items you use on an ongoing basis or other everyday health products.

Also, if you've put off dental care there's no better time than the present to get that covered, and a massage therapy might be a great way to spend some FSA dollars and get a "two-fer" personal and financial relief at same time.

[Note: You'll definitely want to check with your FSA administrator on if the massage therapy will qualify and if so, what type of documentation you'll need to get from the therapist to ensure you are paid back.]

What is important is to keep up with your FSA balance and your spending deadline to make sure you spend all of the FSA money you've allocated for the year. And, keeping track of your current spending will help you in mapping out your FSA budget for the upcoming plan year.

New FSA-eligible arrivals...


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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.