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Real Money: There's still time to map your FSA spending for the rest of 2019

Didn't 2019 just start last week? January 2020 may be closer than the previous one, but for many of you, FSA spending is still something you're planning for the remainder of the year.

You may have spent more of your FSA funds than you planned to early in the year. But before you start kicking yourself for overspending, you have plenty of time to still budget the remainder of your 2019 -- and use this planning to create a sustainable budget for next year, so you truly make the most of your funds each month.

Re-examine your monthly needs

We're all guilty of it -- starting a year with a budget in mind, then seeing that full allocation of funds and spending it early in the year. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, if that's your game plan. But many FSA users will agree that setting a budget for each month's needs allows these tax-free dollars to go a little further.

If you're interested in making a monthly budget for your FSA funds that can last you throughout the rest of the year, start by creating a list of your monthly necessities, take stock of what items in your home need to be replenished in the future (such as bandages, over-the-counter remedies, etc.), and set limits each month on how much you'll spend.

Need to replenish your cabinets?

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See if there are changes to make

Since it's open enrollment season, also take some time to calculate how much you think you'll spend on qualified medical expenses. Our FSA Calculator can help you estimate your health spending!

The calculation takes into account:

  • Out-of-pocket expenses such as co-pays and deductibles for medical services including routine office visits, specialist office visits, and even hospitalization or acupuncture.
  • Over-the-counter FSA-eligible items and prescriptions.
  • Dental care and vision care.

Visit your doctor

If there's one extra expense you should always factor in, it should be medical appointments -- even basic trips to your primary care doctor to get a full assessment of your current state of health. With a clean bill of health in hand, you'll be able to settle into the winter (and have a much better idea of what your medical spending will amount to over the course of next year, to help your budgeting for the year ahead).

Buy items online as you need them - look for seasonal care, over-the-counter FSA items that you use often, and discover just how many products are FSA-eligible. Note that certain over-the-counter products will require a prescription to be reimbursed under your FSA.

By planning ahead, you'll easily avoid buying products in bulk (or unnecessarily stockpiling) and instead enjoy a variety of items - rather than ending up with multiple pairs of eyeglasses, or unneeded boxes of bandages (which isn't recommended ever, because the IRS frowns upon you buying more of one item than you would need for any given plan year)..

Think beyond prescriptions and standard appointments

Depending on the availability of your preferred physician and your need for prescription drugs, you may have limited ways to spend your FSA dollars. Review the rules of your plan and you may find out that you may be reimbursed for qualifying diagnostic devices and even smoking cessation and weight loss programs when needed to treat a diagnosed medical condition and prescribed by your doctor, chiropractor medical services, and many other types of expenses.

Even if you're healthy as a horse, don't forget to plan for the unexpected during these last few months of 2019. When putting together your budget, be sure to still leave about 10-20% of your funds aside to cover unexpected medical expenditures.

Whether this is for the cost of medication, an emergency room visit, or a trip to a specialist, this will give you additional breathing room to put toward major medical needs with your tax-free funds.

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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
Photo by Coline Haslé on Unsplash

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

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

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

Which dermatology treatments are covered?

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

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

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

* An Rx may be required for FSA reimbursement.

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

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

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

Skin treatments that aren't covered with your FSA

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

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

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

FSA-eligible skin care products we love

dpl II Panel Professional Acne Treatment System

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

Broad Spectrum Sun and Skin Protection

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

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Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Eligibility
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

That's Eligible?! Must-haves for your baby's first road trip

My husband and I recently took our first road trip with our baby. While I had visions of listening to the perfect road trip playlist while my baby slept peacefully in his carseat, the reality was a bit different.

What was supposed to be a peaceful 10-hour road trip to visit family ended up as an 18-hour drive, replete with a minor car accident and later, a trip to the emergency room.

Don't worry, we're all fine. But we learned quickly what items and preparation were needed to make the next road trip a bit more bearable – and safe. After all, traveling with a child is anything but predictable.

A little due diligence...

Before booking a major trip, ask yourself the question: is this type of trip appropriate for my child, given his or her age, any medical conditions, or special needs? Are the necessary travel hours doable for their age? How long can they realistically be expected to sit still, whether strapped into a car seat or on a plane with hundreds of strangers?

If you've always longed to camp at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Yosemite, or dreamt of taking your little one to Paris to picnic under the Eiffel Tower, that's all well and good. But would your child enjoy it, as well? And would you realistically be able to enjoy the trip, with a baby and necessary gear in tow? (I'll go ahead and answer that for you… no.)

Say you're planning an epic cross-country road trip. You'll need to schedule ample bathroom and snack stops, and it wouldn't hurt to book a few nights at a hotel with some kid-friendly attractions, like a pool or indoor water park, either.

Same goes for flying. If you're looking at a 10-hour flight, maybe breaking it up into two flights with a layover in a fun, family-friendly city makes more sense.

Make like a scout and be prepared

No one wants to think of the worst-case scenario when planning a vacation with their family. But it happens. Case in point: During our road trip, my son scratched his cornea (darn those tiny baby nails!) and my husband and I found ourselves at the local children's hospital at 6 a.m. our second day there, with one very grumpy baby in tow.

We were fortunate that the nearest emergency room was at a top-ranked hospital, but that was pure luck. Next time, I wouldn't take that chance. Being prepared goes beyond packing a first-aid kit, white noise machine, sunscreen, and a thermometer -- most of which (with the exception of the white noise machine) are FSA-eligible, by the way.

It's a no-brainer to booking the usual hotels, rental cars, and activities for your next trip in advance. But when traveling with kids, creating a medical map is also a must. It should include the nearest hospital, urgent care, and 24-hour pharmacy at your destination, as well as those along the route.

It's also wise to call ahead to the hospital to ensure they accept your insurance, and if any emergency room visits are FSA or HSA-eligible. Add your medical map, as well as the addresses of any retailers that could ship necessary meds or first-aid supplies overnight, to a folder the contains all the details for your trip.

Another item to include in your master folder? The name and phone number of your car insurance policy, as well as details on your coverage. You know, just in case your husband backs into a pole during your epic road trip. (This is a purely hypothetical situation, of course.)

It's also wise to include printouts of your route (in case your phone's GPS doesn't work), as well as a list of intended stops, including food/fuel stations, and hours between said stops. While "winging it" may be romantic and spontaneous when you're young, the less you leave to chance with a baby, the better.

While this may see like overkill, no one wants to be frantically Googling in the middle of the night with a sick or injured child on vacation.

Caring Mill Comprehensive First Aid Kit

The Caring Mill Comprehensive First Aid Kit has everything you'll need to respond quickly in an emergency situation.

Coppertone Kids Sport Sunscreen

Coppertone Kids Sport Sunscreen is designed to support kids when they're active outside in the strong sun.

Kinsa QuickCare Smart Stick Digital Thermometer

The Kinsa QuickCare Smart Stick Thermometer offers not only fast and accurate temperature readings, but also provides personalized tips for recovery.

An ounce of prevention...

Politics aside, knowing your stuff when it comes to recommended vaccines before travel is also a must when traveling with children. Some overseas locales even require certain vaccines. Worth noting: vaccines are also FSA-eligible.

Also take into account environmental dangers to prepare for, such as wildlife or poisonous plants, even extreme heat. Be sure to get any necessary vaccinations, preventative care, or appropriate gear well in advance of your trip. And if you or your child take a daily medication, such as allergy meds, be sure to stock up beforehand.

And if this vacation is sounding more and more like work than a much-needed vacation, you're not alone. But trust me when I say that experiencing new places and sights through your child's eyes makes it all worth it... we think.

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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.

Sun Care Center

How to perform regular skin checks

With spring here in full swing and summer just around the corner, you and your loved ones' time in the sun will increase significantly and it's time to take the proper precautions. It's a good time to remind individuals and families to be mindful of the risk of the most common form of cancer in the United States - and the most preventable cancer type!

As important as utilizing broad spectrum sunscreens when spending time in the direct sunlight is for preventing skin cancer, regular skin checks are pivotal for early detection. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer growths that are found and removed early are almost always curable, so as the weather gets warm, skin checks are a necessity. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Dermatology that can help you get started!

What to look for

There are 5 key characteristics to look for that could be trouble signs of skin cancer growth. Skin cancer growths showcase asymmetry - or one half is unlike the other half - have an irregular, poorly defined border and varying color shades. Melanomas are typically larger than 6 millimeters, but another warning sign to look out for is a continual evolution in its shape and color that show that the growth is progressing.

Use a full-length mirror

Every skin cancer check should start with a full body exam in a full-length mirror. This will allow you to examine your body from front to back to check for any questionable dark spots or moles that could be the early signs of cancer. Additionally, be sure to lift your arms when checking your sides to ensure an unobstructed view.

Check hard-to-reach spots

One of the risks of melanoma is that it can form on unexpected places on the body, so make sure your skin check is as thorough as possible! Some spots to keep in mind are forearms, palms, the backs of legs/feet, spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet.

Utilize a hand mirror

Last but not least, there are a few spots on your body that you should closely inspect with a hand mirror. Examine the back of your neck and scalp with the mirror, and part your hair to check the underlying scalp for any marks or imperfections that may be present. This is also a good opportunity to check your lower back and buttocks as well.

What should I do if I spot a growth?

If you spot a growth that showcases the characteristics of melanoma, don't wait! Make an appointment with your dermatologist immediately to have it checked and removed if necessary!


Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen

Work and play the day away without worrying about sunburn.

Sun Bum SPF 50 Sunscreen Continuous Spray

Protect your skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays while enriching your skin with Vitamin E.

Eligibility

Asked and Answered: Can I use my FSA for travel immunizations?

Travel season is coming! And those vacation days you've been saving up all winter are ready to use. It's time to get on a plane and go somewhere fun while the sun is shining and the weather is warm.

Though you can't use your flexible spending account (FSA) to pay for the trip itself, you can use it to cover the costs of necessary travel vaccines for your summer vacation, no matter where your journey takes you.

When traveling to a foreign country, there's often a list of both recommended and mandatory shots that you, as the traveller, have to get before takeoff. Different countries are hosts to different things -- food, water quality, plant life and more. Depending on where you're headed, appropriate immunizations can protect you from potential diseases that can come from being exposed to things your body isn't accustomed to.

According to IRS Publication 502, qualified medical expenses include the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and the costs for treatments affecting any part or function of the body. As a result, these immunizations qualify as FSA-eligible expenses.

So, what does this mean for you?

Let's lead with an example. If you're traveling somewhere in the mountains of Japan, then you need to make sure you get the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine. If you're lounging on the beaches of Costa Rica, then you need to get a typhoid vaccination before buying those plane tickets.

Different travel destinations require different vaccinations, so make sure to check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler's Health page to see what type of vaccinations are needed (or recommended) for your getaway.

The CDC recommends making these appointments 4-6 weeks prior to your travel date because some vaccinations require more than one shot, or take time to reach full effectiveness.

I'm traveling with my family. Are their immunizations covered, too?

Yes and no, depending on the circumstances. Here's who's qualified to be covered for travel immunizations under FSA eligibility as defined by Internal Revenue Code 105(b):

  • The employee
  • The employee's spouse
  • An employee's child through the age of 26
  • An employee's qualified tax dependent

Vacations are as much about relaxation as they are about sightseeing. To give yourself that peace of mind, before you book that international getaway, be sure to make those doctor's appointments and get the proper immunizations.

(And while you're at it, make sure to get some FSA-eligible sun protection along the way.)

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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.

Caring Mill™ Travel First Aid Kit

Perfect for on-the-go and can easily fit into a backpack.

MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Crème 

An ideal makeup primer and sunscreen all in one.


Eligibility

That's Eligible?! Allergy season isn't over for everyone

Compared to 2018, this year's allergy season has been a relative breeze. We haven't seen any horrifying videos of trees exploding with pollen. And most people have adjusted to the warmer air with minimal trouble.

But for many (including this author), allergies remain an ongoing problem, leading to coughing, sneezing and sore throat, well into the summer months. So, unless you choose to stay indoors all summer, we recommend facing allergies head on. And there are FSA-eligible products that can help you get ahead of these summer irritations.

Since Memorial Day is coming up this weekend, let's take a closer look at some items to make things a little easier once cookout season starts.

Steam inhalers

With so much warmth and humidity in the air each summer, it seems weird that anyone would want a machine that provides more warm, humid air. But the bottom line is that they're a huge help for alleviating summer allergy, cold and flu symptoms.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible steam inhalers for both adults and children that can help open nasal passages, and clear the nasty buildup that causes sore throats and stuffy heads, while also alleviating some of the pain that comes with them.

Hot and cold packs

Sometimes the best way to attack your allergy problems is from the outside in. Through simple hot or cold compresses (which come in a wide range of shapes and styles) people find all-natural relief from sinus headaches, nasal pressure and sore throat pain, just by holding them against the affected areas.

Pain and allergy medications

There's a huge range of allergy medications available that do a good job getting you through stuffy noses, sneezing, scratchy, dry throats and more. And when your sore throat moves beyond comfortable levels, standard pain medications usually do the trick for longer-term relief. To ease things a little more quickly, medicated throat lozenges can make a world of difference, too.

Please note: Pain relief medications and throat lozenges will require a prescription to be FSA-eligible. But our Rx Process isn't difficult at all, and if you find yourself using these products all season long, think of the savings your FSA can provide! Check out our complete Eligibility List to see if the products you need require a prescription.

Mattress and pillow covers

There's a chance your ongoing sore throat might actually be coming from inside your house. On top of pollen and other environmental allergens, dust mites also become a bigger problem during spring and summer months. No, it's not a comfortable topic, but these microscopic annoyances thrive in warmer summer weather, and can keep your allergy problems going well into fall.

Anti-allergy mattress and pillow covers put a barrier between you and the dust and germs beneath the surface, and help contain them, to help reduce your symptoms.

Allergies are a topic we cover quite a bit, because they continue to affect many people, long after the "season" ends. Thankfully, there are a lot of products available to make it easier on you all summer long.

If your symptoms don't improve or become more severe, speak with an allergist to ensure medications and treatments are right for your symptoms. To locate an allergist, visit the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website for a list of specialists near you.

Steam Inhalers

Steam inhalers provide pure, therapeutic, warm mist effectively free from germs, allergens, and pollutants.

Hot Packs

Hot packs provide long lasting therapeutic heat to relieve minor muscle aches.

Allergy Relief

From Over-the-Counter tablets to saline spray to nasal rinse, relief from allergies is right around the corner.

Throat Lozenges

Cold remedy throat lozenges will have you feeling better, sooner.


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, YouTube and Twitter.