Living Well

10 kid-friendly FSA eligible products your little ones will love

When we think about medical expenses our Flexible Spending Account (FSA) can cover, we might think about healthcare expenses and products that tackle the aches, pains, and medical conditions that come with adult life.

But guess what? There are a bunch of products designed with kids in mind. These items not only can help boost your little ones' physical health and overall well-being, but can provide comfort when they're not feeling great, and even add a spark of joy for your children. Here are 10 of our favorite kid-friendly FSA eligible goodies:

1. Zoo Dual Hot and Cold Packs

If your little one is running a fever or maybe had a minor fall, you can use this adorable mini zoo hot and cold pack that's couched inside a pink bear. Not only will it help your kid feel better and alleviate any pain or discomfort, but they might make a new furry friend! Plus, it's compact, so won't take up a lot of room in your medicine cabinet.

These dual cold and hot packs also come in a few different varieties to make up a menagerie of critters — a complementary blue bear, kaola, hippo, bunny, elephant, or monkey. Consider getting one of each to cheer up your kid next time they aren't feeling well or have a boo-boo.

2. Pig-Shaped Hold and Cold Packs

To fix wounds or alleviate discomfort and pain from a minor accident or injury, look no further than these colorful and animal-shaped TheraPearl Pals cold and heat packs. They're soothing, and your kid will be distracted by the cute overload factor. Besides "Pearl" the pig, your child can meet a host of cute characters: "Ribbit" the frog, "Buddy" the puppy, and "Ping" the Panda.

3. Fever Relief Sheets

If your child is having a high temperature, applying a fever relief sheet can help them sleep better at night. These make for a fine alternative to a wet towel and are thin, easy to use, and can last up to eight hours.

They also don't require any refrigeration and are reusable so you can store them in a cabinet, first aid kit, or your purse to take with you on the go. These particular fever relief sheets are created by Caring Mill, which donates a portion of its proceeds to the non-profit organization Children's Health Fund.

4. Band-Aids for Kids

If your kid is suffering from a small cut or scrape, gently apply a band-aid that will put a smile on their face. FSA Store features a number of kid-friendly band-aids, such as Frozen, Star Wars, Minions, and Nickelodeon shimmery ones.

5. Kid-Friendly First Aid Kits

If your kids are the physically active sort, then a sports-themed first aid kit might come in handy to cart around. Whether you store them for easy access in a closet, in the trunk of your car, or perhaps in a kid care bag when you're on the go.

For the animal lover in your family, consider these Sea & Safari themed first aid kit. It comes with a sheet of stickers so your child can have fun decorating the case. This compact kit features an assortment of bandages with sea and safari designs on them, alcohol prep pads, cotton swabs, gauze pads, self-adhesive wrap, and antiseptic wipes.

Your child might also love the Ouchies Sea Friendz First Aid Kit, with a cute turtle on the carry case. They feature a variety of first aid items, including sea animal-themed bandages.

6. Medicine Travel Kit

To complement your first aid kid, consider a portable children's medicine cabinet. The Welly Children's Medicine Travel Kit features an attractive tin with an assortment of chewable, crushable tablets to remedy some ailments — allergies, pain and fever, and stomach discomfort. They're individually wrapped

7. Boogie Wipes

Are the young ones in your household running around with a constant case of the sniffles? If they're cooped up with a cold or seasonal allergies, you might be in constant need of a box of tissues. But too much nose-blowing could lead to irritation and pain. Your kidlets are now struggling with dry, painful noses from all that blowing and wiping.

If that's the case, then they might enjoy Boogie Wipes. These gentle, disposable wipes are made of a blend of natural saline, aloe, and vitamin E that's hypoallergenic. These FSA-eligible wipes come in a travel pack of 10, or a 90-count box.

8. Youth Overnight Pants

Who's that scaling the walls? It's your friendly neighborhood Spiderman, lending a helping hand with bedwetting? Well, sorta. To help your child with bedwetting, consider these Goodnites youth pants. They're highly absorbent, feature five-layer leak protection, and with a snug fit to help your little one feel cozy, confident, and secure while sleeping at night.

Bonus: they have cool Spiderman graphics that appeal to the superhero loving child in your family. These youth pants also come in different sizes, with versions of the Hulk, Iron Man, and Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

9. Cherry-Flavored Allergy Medication

If your kid is up all night with an itchy throat, runny nose, or feeling generally icky due to allergies, some Benadryl might help relieve them of their symptoms. Made for kids ages 6 to 11, the cherry flavor might help the medicine go down.

10. Food Allergy Alert Bracelet

Having allergies is certainly no fun, and it might be scary if adults aren't aware of what food allergies a child might have. This adorable food allergy charm bracelet helps kids stay safe by indicating a child's known allergies, in a fun, visual way. Your little one can also accessorize with this brightly colored epi pen holder carrier.

Yes, they're all FSA eligible

This roundup features products that are fun, cleverly designed with a kids' heart and appeal in mind. And best of all, they're FSA eligible! To see what other items your youngins' might enjoy, check out a curated list of products under our Super Parent section.

A quick note: The FSA contribution limit in 2021 is $2,750, and most plans give you until the end of the year to use up your funds. Depending on your employer, there might be a grace period of 2.5 months or a $550 carryover- be sure to check with your employer or benefits administrator. To make the most of your FSA funds, plan accordingly, and purchase items that can come in handy for your medicine cabinet.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


About the Author

Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer and is based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Salon, Mental Floss, and GOOD. She is a candidate for the ACFPE® financial coaching certification.

Jackie is passionate about helping artists, freelancers, and gig economy workers with their finances. She has in-depth experience writing about budgeting, investing, frugality, money, and relationships, and loves finding interesting stories that revolve around money.

popular

10 FSA eligible staff favorites for the March 15 Grace Period deadline

We're just going to say what everyone's been thinking: 2020 was, well, a year. We understand that there's probably a lot weighing on you, but figuring out how to use your FSA funds before the March 15th Grace Period Deadline shouldn't be one of them.

So, we're here to help you start thinking about it. Whether you need a refresher on the basics or are looking to delve a bit deeper, our website has a ton of helpful information on FSAs, eligible products, and those important deadlines. We know you have some time before March 15th, but we thought we'd help in the idea department in case your pandemic fatigue has your mind completely blank (because we hear that's a thing that we may or may not have).

Here are 10 of our staff's favorite FSA eligible products:

1. Sejoy Infrared Forehead Thermometer

According to The New York Times, 6 million Americans received the coronavirus vaccine and more than 27 million have received the first dose. While this is progress, COVID-19 is still in full force. Protecting yourself and others is hugely important, so spending your remaining funds on important virus preparedness items is a great investment. The Sejoy Infrared Forehead Thermometer is one such device. It's a no-contact thermometer that gives quick and easy results. Especially suited for the pandemic, it's the same kind of thermometer doctors' offices and employers have been using to safely check temperatures without touching anyone, and with it you can do that in your own home.

2. Zyrtec Adult Allergy Relief Tabs - 90 ct

Whether you're prepping for the just-around-the-corner allergy season, or you're someone who suffers from allergies all year long, using those remaining 2020 FSA dollars on Zyrtec Adult Allergy Relief Tabs is an excellent idea. Its prescription strength provides 24-hour relief of indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms, including itchy nose and throat, runny nose, sneezing, and itchy and watery eyes.

3. MyPurMist Free Cordless Ultrapure Steam Inhaler

The best thing about the MyPurMist Free Cordless Ultrapure Steam Inhaler? Actually, we can think of two: it helps ease sinus pressure and pain when you're not feeling well, and it also sort of makes you feel like you're in a steam room, which sort of makes you feel like you're in a luxurious spa. If that feels like a stretch, know that it's an all-natural, drug-free remedy and a great choice for allergy season and year-round nasal irrigation.

4. Omron Total Power Heat + TENS Unit

The Omron Total Power Heat + TENS Unit makes you feel like you're at physical therapy (if physical therapy was in your own home). It's a drug-free pain relief option that combines soothing heat with TENS therapy (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) to relieve acute and chronic muscle and joint pain.

5. myLAB Box COVID-19 At-Home Viral Detection Test

There are a lot of COVID-19 preventative measures we should all be taking: social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and getting tested. But weekly COVID testing isn't accessible or affordable for everyone. That's where the myLAB Box COVID-19 At-Home Viral Detection Test comes in! This at-home COVID-19 testing kit is the perfect solution. It takes saliva samples (as opposed to the hard-to-do-yourself and somewhat uncomfortable nasal swabs at clinics and hospitals) and provides pre-paid shipping labels so you can get your test results ASAP.

6. Elvie Double Electric Breast Pump

This is one of our most popular breastfeeding products, and for good reason. The Elvie Double Electric Breast Pump allows for hands-free pumping and eliminates noise for a peaceful pumping session. Plus, it comes with a free app (not necessary for operation — just a bonus!) so moms can easily monitor milk volume in real time, track pumping history for each breast, and control the pump remotely.

7. BAND-AID® Adhesive Bandages Variety Pack, 120 Count

Cuts and scrapes are bound to happen, so it's super useful to have these bandages around. This variety pack has a bunch of different kinds, including bandages that are waterproof, clear, designed for sports, and even ones with Disney characters on them!

8. Neosporin Plus Pain Relief, Maximum Strength Antibiotic Ointment, 1 oz

Bandages and antibiotic ointments go perfectly together, so once you add the BAND-AID® Adhesive Bandages Variety Pack to cart, you don't want to forget about Neosporin. It helps heal cuts, burns, and scrapes quickly and prevent infection, and is always useful to have on hand.

9. Aveeno Clear Complexion Face Moisturizer, 4oz

Let's face it, if moisturizer isn't part of your acne treatment routine, your skin is missing out. This one is specially formulated with salicylic acid for people with stubborn pimples, helps prevent breakouts, and clears up blemishes. It also has a soy complex to gently moisturize, improve your complexion, and keep skin feeling refreshed.

10. Miku Smart Baby Monitor with Breathing and Movement

This item may be last, but it definitely shouldn't be at the bottom of your list. If you're a parent with a newborn, the Miku Smart Baby Monitor with Breathing and Movement is a must-have. One of our most popular hi-tech health items, it allows you to monitor your baby's breathing, temperature, humidity, sound, and movement without wires or wearables through a compatible smartphone app. You can rest assured while your baby rests peacefully.

We hope you're as excited by these products as we are, but if you're looking for some other FSA eligible items to catch your eye, check out our FSA Deadline Spending Guide. Whether it's sun care, thermometers, tampons and pads, or any of our other health essentials, we've made it beyond easy to use your remaining dollars before the 3/15 Grace Deadline. Happy shopping!


Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Eligibility

Virus prep and your FSA: How to get a head start on 2021

While 2020 was a difficult year, December ended on a high note after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. Although nationwide vaccine rollouts have officially kicked off, it may be a while until you receive one, depending on your career, age, and health status.

In the meantime, there are plenty of steps you can take to stay healthy until you receive the coveted COVID-19 vaccine. You can even save money on supplies by using your leftover pre-tax flexible spending account (FSA) money. Here are some of the best ways to get ahead of 2021 virus preparedness.

Flexible spending account (FSA) basics

Before getting started, it may be handy to know some of the basics about your flexible spending account (FSA). Your account allows you to set aside pre-tax money from each paycheck to pay for qualified medical expenses. The contribution limit for 2020 was $2,750, and you may contribute up to the same amount for 2021.

Typically, FSA funds are "use-it-or-lose-it" through the end of the year, but depending on your company's FSA rules, you may have a 2.5 month grace period into 2021 or a $550 rollover for unused 2020 money. You will have one option or the other, not both. After that, you will lose whatever is leftover.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to spend your FSA money, including purchasing must-have COVID-19 supplies. (There's a full list of FSA-eligible medical and dental expenses here.)

How to use your flexible spending account (FSA) for virus prep

As you start looking for ways to spend the money in your flexible spending account (FSA), several items could be smart purchases for virus preparedness. But when in doubt about FSA-eligible expenses, don't hesitate to contact your plan administrator.

In-person COVID-19 testing expenses

While COVID-19 testing is available for free nationwide through health centers and some local pharmacies, there may be specific scenarios when you need to pay out-of-pocket for a test.

For example, some colleges require more frequent COVID-19 testing for on-campus students. You may also need a rapid COVID-19 before boarding a plane for international travel per the latest CDC guidelines.

These COVID-19 tests can be costly, and your insurance company may not be willing to foot the bill. Fortunately, you can use your FSA to reimburse yourself for your unreimbursed COVID-19 testing bills.

At-home COVID-19 tests

If you experience COVID-19 symptoms and don't want to risk exposing others to the virus, you may consider keeping an at-home COVID-19 test handy. These allow you to use a nasal swab or saliva to collect a sample from the comfort of your home, and you can mail in the sample for your test results.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first at-home COVID-19 test in April 2020, and they have become widely available since then. While there are no guarantees that your insurance will cover at-home COVID-19 tests, you can get a reimbursement from your FSA.

Contact thermometers

If you have a fever or chills, one of the primary COVID-19 symptoms, you may need a thermometer to confirm these body temperature changes. While the country experienced thermometer shortages in 2020, there are plenty of reliable options (for now).

You can use a contact thermometer to take temperatures by armpit, forehead, mouth, or rectum. You may pick a digital thermometer for adults or infants and an ear thermometer for taking a child's temperature. Either thermometer may offer a quick and accurate reading, and depending on the results, you may decide to monitor your symptom(s) from home or take a COVID-19 test.

Contactless thermometers

Contactless thermometers are another popular option for quick readings, allowing you to take someone's temperature without touching their skin. You may choose a temporal artery thermometer (all ages) for a brief forehead reading or a tympanic thermometer (not suitable for newborns) for easy in-ear readings.

Although a temporal artery thermometer may be handy when you need quick readings for the workplace or safety at public events, these thermometers don't offer the same accuracy as digital thermometers.

Over-the-counter medicine

Thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, you can now use your FSA money to pay for certain over-the-counter (OTC) medicines without a prescription. For example, if you're nursing COVID-19 symptoms, you may purchase fever reducers, like Tylenol. You are also free to buy over-the-counter products like nasal decongestants, cough medicine, or cough drops.

Pulse oximeter

If you're a high-risk individual or prefer to err on the side of caution, you may feel safer with a pulse oximeter at your home. You can clip this device to your finger to measure your blood oxygen level and pulse rate, and some products may integrate with the health tracker on your smartphone. Those with pre-existing lung or heart conditions may already have a pulse oximeter per their doctor's orders.

Those who experience life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms, like difficulty breathing, shouldn't try to diagnose the condition from home. The CDC recommends calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Masks aren't currently flexible spending account (FSA) eligible

Although health experts recommend wearing cloth or surgical masks to protect you and others from the spread of COVID-19, these items aren't currently FSA-eligible. If you have a pre-existing condition, masks may be eligible with a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from your doctor only. FSAstore.com has created a petition to drive public support for this issue, so be sure to lend your voice!

If you're struggling to afford masks, you may check with your public health department for free or reduced-cost options. Some cities and states currently offer free masks for small businesses or residents.

How to prevent getting COVID-19

While it's smart to have the essentials at the ready, you should also focus on prevention. According to the CDC, wearing a mask, staying at least six feet away from others, avoiding crowds, and staying out of poorly ventilated places are some of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To prevent illness, you should also wash your hands often, especially after spending time in public. If you can't wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, cover all surfaces of your hands with a sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

Another way to reduce your risk of illness is by cleaning and disinfecting surfaces you often touch, like doorknobs, handles, countertops, keyboards, and phones. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends these disinfectants for COVID-19.

Be proactive with your flexible spending account (FSA)

Even though we have been grappling with the coronavirus pandemic for almost a year, and nationwide vaccinations have started, the virus is still a threat for most Americans. While prevention, like social distancing and handwashing, may be the best way to avoid getting sick, it may be worthwhile to purchase virus-preparedness essentials before you or a loved one contracts the virus.

Although some supplies can be costly, a tax-friendly account, like your FSA, can make these purchases more affordable. And if you're on the verge of losing a chunk of FSA money from 2020, COVID-19 supplies may be a smart investment for the rest of the pandemic and future health needs.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Kate Dore

Kate Dore is a Nashville-based personal finance writer and Candidate for Certified Financial Planner Certification. She teaches financial literacy with Junior Achievement and writes for Lifehacker, Business Insider, Investopedia, and Credit Karma. You can follow her on Twitter at @KateDore.
Eligibility

Thermometers 101: What's the best choice for my family?

Your child's well-being is your top priority, and it's normal to worry about changes in their health. A higher temperature is a common issue and may not signal a severe problem. But you will want the ability to monitor your child's temperature with a reliable thermometer from home, especially with the lingering threat of COVID-19. Our guide covers how to find the best thermometer for your family — during the coronavirus pandemic — and beyond.

How to choose the right thermometer

In 2020, thermometer shortages made it challenging for families to screen each other for fever, one of the symptoms of COVID-19. To increase supply, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) temporarily relaxed its thermometer regulations. While more supply is a good thing, it may be tougher for families to compare options. Here are some factors to consider before picking a thermometer for your family.

  • Accuracy - If you think your child may have a fever, you will need a reliable thermometer for accurate readings until they feel better.
  • Age restrictions - Thermometers aren't a one-size-fits-all device. Some thermometers may be more suitable than others, depending on your child's age.
  • Ease of use - If your thermometer is hard to use, it may be more challenging to get an accurate temperature reading. You will also want to pay attention to speed, especially when dealing with an infant or toddler's readings.
  • Price - You will notice a range of prices depending on the type of thermometer you want. Luckily, you can save money by purchasing a thermometer with pre-tax money using your flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA).

Types of thermometers: what's the difference?

Most thermometers fall into two categories: contact or contact-free. Contact thermometers touch the body to take your temperature, whereas contact-free thermometers can get a temperature reading without touching the skin. Here's a closer look at the most common types of contact and contact-free thermometers from the Mayo Clinic.

  • Contact thermometers - Contact thermometers use electronic heat sensors to measure temperatures by armpit, forehead, mouth, or rectum. If you have an infant or children under three, contact thermometers may offer the most accurate temperatures, but oral or rectal readings can be trickier. These thermometers are suitable for all ages, though.
  • Temporal artery thermometers - These contactless thermometers use an infrared scanner to measure your forehead temperature quickly. While they are suitable for any age, temporal artery thermometers tend to be more expensive and less accurate than other types.
  • Tympanic thermometers - Another contactless thermometer, these use an infrared ray in the ear canal. Although these are quick and comfortable, earwax or small curved ear canals may make tympanic thermometers less accurate, and they aren't suitable for newborns.

The best thermometer picks for your family

With thousands of options and many popular choices out of stock, finding the right thermometer can feel impossible. Luckily, we have compared some of the top reviewed options, including features, pricing, and more. These are some of the best thermometer options, depending on your family's needs.

Best Budget Oral / Rectal Thermometer: Mabit Digital Thermometer - $7.99

The Mabis Digital Thermometer is an affordable pick for all ages, offering 60-second oral, rectal, and underarm readings for a tone for peak temperatures and fever alarm above 99.5° F. The device also features a memory recall and automatic shutoff to conserve the battery.

"Much faster than a conventional thermometer. Accurate per my calibration with a high-end thermometer," says verified buyer James M.

Best Ear Thermometer: Caring Mill Instant Ear Thermometer - $29.99

The Caring Mill Instant Ear Thermometer offers a one-second reading with an LCD display screen. You can store up to 20 readings, and there is a color-coded alert and beeping alarm when a temperature exceeds 99.5° F. Caring Mill also donates a portion of every sale to Children's Health Fund, a non-profit dedicated to healthcare for underserved children in the United States.

"I love the size and how easy it is to use and read," writes verified buyer Lisa W.

Best Forehead Thermometer: Sejoy Infrared Forehead Thermometer - $98.99

The Sejoy Infrared Forehead Thermometer is a no-fuss, contactless option for all ages, with temperature readings in only three seconds. The device uses infrared technology for more accurate temperatures and allows you to store up to ten readings.

"Works great, easy to use, and reading comes back in a few seconds," says verified buyer James K.

What temperature is considered a fever?

Although children may get warm from playing, crying, or getting out of a warm bed, their elevated temperature shouldn't last longer than 20 minutes. According to Seattle Children's Hospital, about 80% of children who feel warmer or act sick may have a fever. The best way to know for sure is by taking their temperature, and the following cutoffs may signal a fever:

  • Armpit temperature: 99° F or higher
  • Mouth temperature: 100° F or higher
  • Ear, forehead, or rectal temperature: 100.4° F or higher

While your child's fever may feel like a health emergency, it may not be the major issue you expect. Here's how to tell the difference between an illness to monitor vs. when you need to call the doctor.

When to stay vigilant

While a low-grade fever can be troubling, it isn't necessarily a major concern. According to the Cleveland Clinic, even temperatures up to 102.5° F (three months to three-years-old) or up to 103° F (three-years-old and older) isn't particularly troubling. And fevers lasting less than five days may not be a problem if your child is still eating, drinking, and playing as usual.

When to call the doctor

Although you may not need a medical professional for the scenarios above, the Clinic says there are some scenarios when you will need to call the doctor:

  • Fever for infants under three months
  • Fevers lasting more than five days
  • Fevers above 104° F
  • Fevers that won't come down with fever reducers
  • Difficulty waking up or not drinking enough liquids
  • Temperature above 102° F for more than 48 hours after a vaccine

Be prepared with a thermometer

Whether you're monitoring your child's temperature for a cold, the flu, COVID-19, or another illness, a reliable thermometer is a must-have for every parent's medicine cabinet. While thermometers may vary in cost, you can save money by using your flexible spending account (FSA) to buy one.

As a reminder, these funds go into your FSA before taxes, so spending the money on qualified expenses is a wallet-friendly move. If you still have leftover FSA funds from last year, a thermometer may be a handy purchase to get you through flu season, the pandemic, and your family's future needs.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Kate Dore

Kate Dore is a Nashville-based personal finance writer and Candidate for Certified Financial Planner Certification. She teaches financial literacy with Junior Achievement and writes for Lifehacker, Business Insider, Investopedia, and Credit Karma. You can follow her on Twitter at @KateDore.
Eligibility

Oximeters: Why they are a necessary part of your virus preparedness plan

So you've been washing your hands like a fiend, been homebound except for essential errands, keeping warm, and taking supplements daily. In many ways, you are the poster child on how to be cautious in the time of COVID-19.

But have you heard of an oximeter? And more importantly, why these devices are a must-have in preparing for viruses this winter? When it comes to your virus preparedness plan, here's why having an oximeter at home plays an essential part.

Oximeters can help with early detection of COVID-19

So what exactly does an oximeter do? In a nutshell, an oximeter measures the heart rate and oxygen levels in your bloodstream. It's typically used for patients who have lung disease, reports Yale Medicine.

But since the pandemic, low oxygen levels can also be a telltale sign that one is positive for the coronavirus when you don't have any other apparent symptoms. And some who test positive might have what's called "silent hypoxia." In other words, they exhibited none of the common symptoms of COVID-19, such as shortness of breath or a general feeling of malaise.

Here's the alarming part: Even though these people didn't have the standard symptoms, they later required hospitalization and had not-to-great outcomes. To avoid getting blindsided by your condition potentially worsening, you'll want to keep an oximeter on hand, reports BMJ.

Even though you might initially experience no COVID-19 symptoms other than mild discomfort, you might have low oxygen saturation in your bloodstream.

Some somber facts: Research reveals that if your oxygen saturation falls to 94%, then the risk of mortality is at 13%. If it dips below that 94% threshold? Then, the risk of mortality shoots up to 28%, reports BMJ.

For those who do test positive for COVID-19, and are at high risk for developing severe symptoms, are given an oximeter to test their oxygen saturation levels in their bloodstream. As this could be a red flag indicating that one might suffer from severe pneumonia from COVID-19, it's important to have an oximeter.

The case for pulse oximeters in the home

If you're looking for a simple way to measure the oxygen levels in your bloodstream, then a pulse oximeter is worth looking into. In fact, it should be the newest addition to your medicine cabinet, next to your thermometer and other winter wellness supplies.

Here's how a pulse ox works: It measures your oxygen levels by way of a probe, and doesn't require you to prick your finger and take a sample. Oximeters are easy to use, are relatively inexpensive and easy to transport, and don't take up too much space. Some also can check your heart rate.


One thing to note is that pulse oximeters do have their limitations. For one, they don't measure one's full ventilation, so you can't really gauge one's respiratory health using one. However, they can be a sign that you have a virus.

Know if you are at high risk

As COVID-19 has affected those who become infected with the virus differently, from those who are asymptomatic to hard-hitting ailments such as severe pneumonia or death, having a pulse oximeter in your home is a must. This rings particularly true for those who are at higher risk for hospitalization or experiencing extreme symptoms from COVID-19.

Those who are older. In the U.S. alone, 80% of deaths from COVID-19 were those who were age 65 and up, reports The Mayo Clinic. It could certainly benefit you to have an oximeter at home.

Those with existing health conditions. Those of any age with chronic, existing health conditions that make them at risk for a severe case of COVID-19 are also considered high risk. This includes severe obesity, diabetes, a heart, and weakened immune systems. A pulse oximeter could come in handy if you have asthma, a lung disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Know what to look for when shopping for a pulse oximeter
Interestingly enough, oximeters can cost up to $3,000. But big thanks to advances in technology, oximeters made for personal use have made them far more affordable. When shopping for a pulse oximeter, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Stick to a pulse oximeter instead of an app. Evidence reveals that apps that claim to measure oxygen levels can be faulty. They aren't really reliable enough to get an accurate reading, suggests Yale Medicine.

Check online. The FSA Store definitely has what you need. We offer pulse oximeters from many of today's top manufacturers so you can factor in this essential medical tool into your home health diagnostics plan.

Of course, if your symptoms worsen, seek professional care. Pulse oximeters are a tool to help you detect a virus such as COVID-19, but it shouldn't be the only thing to check. It's just one tool of many that can help you better diagnose a medical condition so you can gather the right data and info to share with a medical professional to inform your treatment plan.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer and is based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Salon, Mental Floss, and GOOD. She is a candidate for the ACFPE® financial coaching certification.

Jackie is passionate about helping artists, freelancers, and gig economy workers with their finances. She has in-depth experience writing about budgeting, investing, frugality, money, and relationships, and loves finding interesting stories that revolve around money.

Eligibility

Generic over-the-counter medicine vs. brand names. What's the best choice?

Few things are more stressful than going to the pharmacy to fill a new prescription. Without calling your health insurance company, you may not know if you have coverage. And even with health insurance coverage, it isn't easy to know how much you will pay out-of-pocket.

Whether your family is relatively healthy or grappling with a chronic illness, most Americans worry about the high cost of prescription drugs. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly half of the U.S. population uses prescription drugs, and many Americans struggle to pay for them. While some federal and state lawmakers have tried to lower the cost, many folks are still spending more than they can afford.

With the government currently focused on the COVID-19 vaccine, it may be a while before lawmakers try to lower the cost of other prescription drugs. In the meantime, there may be a way to make your prescriptions more affordable: generic medicine. We'll cover what to know about generic medicine vs. name-brand drugs and how the switch may benefit your wallet.

What is a generic drug?

It's easy to get turned off by the term "generic." After all, it may evoke imagery of knock-off designer fashion, cheaper electronics, or the less-tasty version of grocery store foods. But generic drugs are a lot different than other types of products.

A generic drug is the same dosage, safety, strength, quality, performance, and method of consumption as a brand-name drug, according to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Generic drugs go through an intense review process before getting FDA approval. The purpose of the review is to make sure the generic drug is as safe and effective as the name-brand version.

Although a generic drug may have a different color, size, and shape than the name-brand drug, these differences won't impact the generic drug's safety or efficacy. This means you can swap generic medication for name-brand drugs without sacrificing quality.

You can learn more about generic medications by asking your doctor, pharmacist, or by visiting the FDA Generic Drugs Program website.

How do generic medications get FDA approval?

It's normal to worry that a generic medicine may not match the quality of a name-brand drug, but you can rest assured knowing generic medications go through a strict FDA approval process.

Before the FDA approves generic medicine, the company must go through a rigorous review process. The purpose is to prove the generic medication can be a safe and effective substitute for a name-brand drug.

To kick-off the process, the company must submit an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) showing the generic medication is the same as the name-brand drug in the following ways:

  • The generic medicine must have the same active ingredient as the name-brand drug.
  • It must have the same strength, use, form, and patients must take the medication the same way.
  • The FDA also must sign off on the inactive ingredients.
  • The generic medicine must follow the same strict manufacturing standards as the name-brand version.
  • The FDA must approve the generic medicine container, and it must have the same label as the name-brand drug.

Why is generic medicine cheaper than name-brand drugs?

The biggest perk of generic medicine is it may be significantly cheaper than the name-brand version. Generic drugs are less expensive because they don't require the same animal and human studies to prove their safety and effectiveness. Also, the FDA may approve multiple applications to create one generic medication. Less upfront research and more marketplace competition can mean lower generic medicine costs.

According to the FDA, generic medicine may cost up to 80 to 85% less than their name-brand equivalents. Generic medicine may be even cheaper than ordering drugs online from Canada, according to 2019 research from PharmacyChecker.com, a website devoted to finding lower-priced prescription drugs. 88% of the 40 most popular generic drugs were less expensive in the United States, the report notes.

Is there a generic version of my name-brand drug?

If you're trying to figure out if there is a generic version of your name-brand drug, you can start by asking your local pharmacist. But if you don't feel comfortable asking or your local pharmacy seems too busy, there are three other options to find out:

  • Search the FDA's database -Drugs@FDA, a database of FDA-approved drugs, allows you to search from drugs on your computer or via the mobile app.
  • Check the Orange Book - You can search the Orange Book for generic medicine by typing in the name-brand drug or its active ingredients.

If your search still comes up short, the name-brand drug company may have exclusive rights within the marketplace. This period allows companies to recoup their research and marketing costs, but once it ends, the FDA may approve a generic version of the drug.

When do I need a brand-name drug?

It can be stressful to fill a prescription, especially when you're unsure how much it will cost. Depending on how your doctor wrote the prescription, it may be possible for your pharmacist to make substitutions for a generic drug. But if your doctor specifies that you must use the name-brand, your pharmacist can't swap it without speaking with your doctor first.

While there may be times when your doctor doesn't know about a generic medication, there may be other instances where the name-brand is necessary. For example, if your doctor prescribes a narrow therapeutic index drug, minor changes can make a big difference. According to the FDA, small changes in the dose or concentration in your blood could cause serious health complications, with the possibility of life-threatening results. With these risks in mind, your doctor may opt for a brand-name drug to be safe.

If the FDA approved a generic version of your brand-name drug, you might be eager to save money by making the switch. But unfortunately, some patients don't tolerate the generic medicine as well. A study from the American Journal of Therapeutics found some patients not tolerating the switch with an antidepressant medication. If you start having troubling side effects or the generic medication doesn't work as well, your doctor may recommend switching back to the original brand-name drug.

Talk to your doctor about generic medicine vs. brand-name drugs

Although generic medicine may be the right choice most of the time, there are instances where your doctor may recommend the brand-name version. Sometimes, there isn't a generic version available, or switching to a generic drug could present a health risk. Even if your doctor signs off on the generic drug, there are no guarantees your body will tolerate the new medication. Like any prescription, you should always discuss generic medicine vs. name-brand drugs with your doctor before making any decisions.

It may be disheartening to learn a name-brand drug is the best or only option. But there is one silver lining: you may use your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) to cover the cost of your prescription medications. These tax-savvy accounts offer a discount on these eligible medical expenses, which puts more money back into your pocket for other priorities.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Kate Dore

Kate Dore is a Nashville-based personal finance writer and Candidate for Certified Financial Planner™ Certification. She teaches financial literacy with Junior Achievement and writes for Lifehacker, Business Insider, Investopedia, and Credit Karma. You can follow her on Twitter at @KateDore.
Eligibility

10 FSA eligible additions to your home's first aid kit

It's a great feeling when you find exactly the item you were looking for during the holiday season. After scouring the aisles for just the right thing, you walk to the checkout counter with your head held high, grinning from ear to ear as you set down your… antiseptic ointment?

As we move closer and closer to the end of December, you may find yourself scrambling to purchase more than just holiday presents. That's because for many, FSA funds expire at the end of the year, so anyone with a well stocked-account should be thinking of creative ways to spend that money. So although you can't use your FSA funds to buy gifts for friends, you can take this opportunity to update your home's first aid capacity.

Chances are, you haven't updated your first aid kit in a while - or you never had one to begin with. Thankfully, most items you would need to put together a first aid kit can be purchased with FSA funds.

Here are some of the most common items you'll find in a first aid kit, and whether or not you can purchase them with money from your FSA account.

1. Pain reliever

There are multiple types of pain relievers you can have in a first-aid kit, but the most common are ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Both ibuprofen and acetaminophen can relieve pain associated with menstrual cramps, headaches, sprains and more. Ibuprofen can also reduce inflammation, while acetaminophen can be used to reduce a fever.

You can use your FSA to purchase either generic or name-brand pain relievers.

2. Bandages

Bandages are essential to any first-aid kit. You should have a variety of types and sizes, including bandages with antibiotic ointment, large gauze pads and waterproof bandages.

You can also buy bandages for blisters, antiseptic liquid bandage spray and hydrocolloid bandages for acne and other wounds. If you have kids, you can even use your FSA funds to buy bandages with cartoon characters or fun colors.

3. Thermometers

If your thermometer is old or unreliable, now is the perfect time to upgrade it. Every type of thermometer is FSA-eligible, including ear, forehead and digital thermometers. Even smart thermometers that sync to your phone are FSA-eligible.

While forehead thermometers are less invasive and more hygienic, oral thermometers seem to be the most reliable according to most medical professionals.

4. First-aid kit

If you don't want to buy items individually, you can use your FSA funds to purchase an all-encompassing first-aid kit.

You should keep a first-aid kit at home, in your car and at work. You can also buy a first-aid kit for your kids to have at school. You can buy a large kit to keep at home and small travel kits to stash in your car, purse or backpack.

If you already have a first-aid kit, go through it and see if anything is missing. Check the expiration dates on the medicine and make sure the bandages still have an adhesive quality.

5. Topical anesthetic

A topical anesthetic is used to numb the area where it is applied. It's most commonly used after an insect sting or bite, or after coming in contact with poison ivy, poison oak or a similar plant.

If you frequently go hiking in the woods, it may be useful to include a topical anesthetic in your bag. Otherwise keeping it in your at-home first-aid kit is perfectly fine.

6. Antihistamine

Having an antihistamine in your first-aid kit will help with allergic reactions.

There are two types of antihistamines. First-generation antihistamines generally cause drowsiness and last a few hours. Second-generation antihistamines rarely cause drowsiness and last longer.

You can also buy an antihistamine with a decongestant to clear up a runny or stuffy nose.

7. Burn relief

Burn relief cream and gel is handy to have in your first-aid kit because they can relieve pain and irritation from minor burns. Burn dressings, pads and sprays are also FSA-eligible.

Only specific types of burn gel are FSA-eligible. For example, products that are 100% aloe vera are only eligible with a Letter of Medical Necessity from a medical professional.

8. Eyeglass accessories

If you wear glasses, you're probably frequently cleaning them with the edge of your shirt or a towel. The problem is, doing this can scratch your glasses. Use your leftover FSA funds to buy some lens cleaning tissues to clean your glasses more effectively and safely.

You can also use your FSA to buy an eyeglass repair kit, which contains a small screwdriver and extra screws in case your glasses fall apart. Keep one at home, at work and in your car.

9. Menstrual products

Even though menstrual products are not included in most first-aid kits, they're an essential item that most women need.

Plus, as of 2020, menstrual products are now FSA-eligible. This applies to tampons, pads, panty liners, menstrual cups and period panties. If you've never tried a menstrual cup or pair of period panties, now is a good time to start.

These are also a good item to consider around this time of year because they never expire.

10. Contact lens solution

If you have contacts, you probably find yourself running out of contact lens solution or not having it when you need it most.

Contact lens solution is FSA-eligible, so it may be a good idea to refresh your supply. Be sure to check the expiration dates so you don't buy a bottle close to expiring. Both regular and hydrogen peroxide-based solutions are FSA-eligible.

Travel size bottles are also eligible for FSA reimbursement. These are good to keep in your glovebox, gym bag or at work. If your child wears contacts, you can buy them a small bottle to keep in their backpack or school locker.

How to Use Your FSA

If you have an FSA card, you can use it like you would any debit or credit card. Choose your FSA-eligible items and checkout with the FSA card.

If your FSA company doesn't provide a card, you'll have to use another form of payment and then submit the receipt for reimbursal. You'll also have to upload the receipt as proof that you spent the funds on qualifying medical expenses.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A Certified Financial Health Counselor and Student Loan Counselor, she also works as a money coach helping people one-on-one at Conscious Coins. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. She paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years.
Eligibility

Product Spotlight: Active Skin Repair Spray

As we close in on the 12/31 FSA deadline, there are plenty of FSA users who have excess funds to spend before it is forfeited to the "use-it-or-lose-it" rule. This week, we're focusing on one of our favorite staff picks here at FSAstore.com (and a smart buy for those remaining flex dollars before the end of 2020!)

Why should you consider Active Skin Repair Spray?

First aid products are among the most common products that FSA users shop for before their plan-year deadlines, as they have a long shelf life and will always come in handy in the case of an injury or emergency. This year we have something new - instead of bandages and gauze, change the way how your family approaches first aid with Active Skin Repair.

  • Natural and non-toxic

If your New Year's resolution is to work more "clean-ingredient" products into your household, this is the perfect alternative for treating everyday skin damage. All Active Skin Repair products are formulated using natural, non-toxic, antibiotic-free and non-sensitizing (no-sting) ingredients and helps support the body's natural healing process.

  • Medical grade

Active Skin Repair leverages the same doctor-recommended and clinically proven molecule that has been used by medical professionals for decades. The "hero" ingredient, Hypochlorous (HOCl), is naturally produced by the white blood cells in our bodies to heal themselves. Active Skin Repair has replicated that molecule using only natural ingredients so you can treat skin damage externally with the same molecule your body does naturally. It's no wonder HOCl is what is used in hospitals, burn centers, and trauma units around the world!

  • Multi-functional

Active Skin Repair condenses many of the most common first aid products down into a single 3 oz. bottle. It's actually the first innovation to wound care since Neosporin was invented in the 1950s and is all biodegradable! That makes it a modern solution for treating minor wounds, cuts, scrapes, sunburns, normal burns, chafing, rashes, insect bites, and other skin irritations.

Whether it's your FSA deadline season or the goal of a healthier start to the new year, Active Skin Repair is one of FSAstore.com's favorite new additions. We keep one in the car, in the medicine cabinet and in our travel bags as it's not a matter of "if" for this product just a matter of "when" we will need it!

Check out the link below to explore all of our Active Skin Repair products for babies (treat diaper rash with a spray!), kids (no sting), and adults. As a "1% for the Planet" company, a portion of each Active Skin Repair purchase is donated to an environmentally focused charity.

Shop Now


Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

popular

Staff Picks: 10 FSA-eligible must-haves for summer

June is finally here and families all over the U.S. will look to the great outdoors to enjoy their the warm weather. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, health implications and safety take on a new profound importance in everyday life, and your flexible spending account (FSA) can help you plan ahead so you don't miss out on your favorite summer activities.

Before it's time to (safely) enjoy the great outdoors, we surveyed the Health-E Commerce team for a list of their top 10 favorite summer health and wellness essentials of 2020:

1. Bug Bite Thing®

Summer means pesky mosquitoes, and if you're looking for a drug-free way to treat insect bites, look no further than the Bug Bite Thing! This device uses suction to painlessly and effectively extract insect saliva/venom from under the skin to eliminate itching, stinging and swelling.

2. Sun Bum® Lip Balm Watermelon - SPF 30

Don't neglect your lip protection during the summer months! Sun Bum® lip balm offers broad spectrum protection to safeguard against UV rays, as well as moisturizers to keep them feeling refreshed and cool with a fun watermelon flavor!

3. MDSolarSciences™ Daily Wear Moisturizing Sunscreen - SPF 30

Year-round sun care is a smart choice for your skin health, so if you're looking for a daily wear sunscreen that can support your skin while keeping you protected, look no further than this great daily wear sunscreen from MDSolarSciences™.

4. SPOTMYUV™ Detection Stickers

This wearable UV detection sticker is one of the favorites of the FSAstore.com staff! This color changing sticker is waterproof, sweat resistant and hypoallergenic, and changes color when it's time for you to reapply sunscreen.

5. Neutrogena® Wet Skin Kids Stick Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Protection - SPF 70

Don't forget kid's sun protection as well! Our pick is the Neutrogena® Wet Skin Kids Stick, which offers broad spectrum and SPF 70 protection, and extra water resistance to keep them safe. If your little ones are especially little, we also have baby sunscreen!

6. Caring Mill™ Bradie Sun Readers

Need a new pair of readers for the beach or wherever you're headed? See clearly and support a great cause! With the sale of each Caring Mill product, we make a donation to Children's Health Fund.

7. Band-Aid® Hydro Seal Bandages Blister Cushion

If blisters are common when you hit the great outdoors, plan ahead with Band-Aid® Hydro Seal Blister Cushions. They're moisture-resistant to stay adhered during long walks and hikes, and can help you ward off discomfort all summer long.

8. Vibrathotics®

While we're on the subject of foot pain, one of our favorite hi-tech health products is Vibrathotics®, a vibrating shoe insert that reduces pain and numbness in the feet by improving blood circulation and stimulating nerves. They're perfect for a post-gym cooldown, pain relief after a long walk and are a great drug-free choice for foot pain.

9. KT Tape® Pro, Pre-Cut

Muscle soreness and injuries shouldn't get in the way of your fitness plan, and that's why athletes the world over trust KT Tape® to stay in the game. These kinesiology tapes are super flexible to be worn during workouts to enhance blood flow to sore and aching muscles without obstructing your range of motion.

10. MediAid® First Aid Kit

Are you prepared for medical emergencies during your summer travels? Stay on top of bumps, bruises, cuts and more with a portable MediAid® first aid kit, which can easily fit in a bag, glove compartment or suitcase.

And don't forget, with the passage of the CARES Act in late March, your FSA now covers over-the-counter (OTC) medicines without a prescription, and feminine care products like tampons, pads, and more are now fully FSA-eligible! It's a great time to be an FSA user.


Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! For the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
popular

Coronavirus Preparedness and Your FSA

With coronavirus cases surging around the globe and the United States beginning to see its first cases, this public health crisis has everyone taking a closer look at their state of health, hygiene and preparedness for a potential pandemic.

Here at FSAstore.com, we've already seen an uptick in interest in thermometers, respiratory therapy, vaporizers and nasal decongestants. The fact is, your flexible spending account (FSA) could be a great help in a time like this, and we want to give you all the tools and know-how you need to take full advantage of your tax-free healthcare benefits to safeguard you and your family's health.

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are a classification of respiratory viruses that were discovered in the 1960s and include conditions ranging from the common cold to more serious conditions like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The current strain that is causing issues all over the globe, COVID-19, is similar to the aforementioned strains but has unique qualities that are making it a uniquely difficult disease to prepare for, and we're still learning more and more about the virus each day (APIC).

Are virus preparation products FSA-eligible?

Some! FSAs are designed to help individuals and families cover the cost of qualified medical expenses, and there are a number of products available that can help you or your family get prepared. Many of the same items that can help ward off and treat seasonal flu viruses can be very handy in any virus preparedness plan.

We have created a Virus Preparedness page to help you get started.

How does coronavirus spread?

COVID-19 is spread person to person and through contact with infected surfaces and objects. However, the CDC warns that while it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads (CDC).

How do I protect myself from catching coronavirus (COVID-19)?

It's still flu season in much of the United States, and many of the same steps that we all take to avoid catching the flu can apply to coronavirus preparation - just a bit more top of mind and built into your daily routine. Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Wash your hands! The risk of any virus can be reduced (sometimes by as much as 50%) by proper hand hygiene. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Can't wash your hands? Use a hand sanitizer. While not as effective as hand washing, in a pinch, a vigorous hand rub with sanitizer is better than nothing. APIC recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  3. Keep surfaces clean. Antibacterial wipes and sprays are a good start to keep your home's surfaces germ-free, and it may be smart to keep some in your backpack or purse when you're heading out. If you're looking for a DIY solution, a 1:10 bleach solution works in a pinch.
  4. Keep commonly used devices clean. How often are you washing your phone or keys? Use the aforementioned antibacterial wipes or a bottle of alcohol and cotton balls to do the trick.
  5. Keep tissues on hand. When you feel that sneeze coming on, direct it into a tissue or your arm to help prevent community spread. And be sure to dispose of those used tissues and wash your hands afterward at the first opportunity.
  6. Stay home if you're not feeling well. Don't risk it! If you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19., the CDC suggests calling your healthcare professional.

What are smart FSA-eligible purchases for coronavirus preparation?

Your FSA can play an important role in helping to boost your current state of health and treat virus-like symptoms should they arise. Here are few suggestions to keep in mind that are useful in any virus preparedness plan:

Over-the-counter (OTC) Medications

It may be wise to pick up a few newly eligible over-the-counter medicines to err on the safe side. Pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, cold & allergy medicines like decongestants and expectorants will be great to have on-hand throughout cold & flu season.

Thermometers

Every home needs a good thermometer so you can stay on top of temperature readings for you or your loved ones and plan your treatment plan accordingly. With in-ear, forehead, infrared and more, there are plenty of options out there to suit your budget.

Vaporizers

COVID-19 is a respiratory condition, as is seasonal influenza that can result in painful coughing, aches and pains. Vaporizers deliver targeted steam therapy to your breathing passages to clear mucus, soothe discomfort from coughing or a sore throat and clearing away environmental pollutants that may be present. If you're looking for something less time-consuming, saline sprays can work in a pinch.

Nasal Irrigation

Nasal irrigation with Neti pots and saline sprays are great options to have on-hand from common colds to more advanced conditions. Nasal irrigation is also extremely helpful in treating upper respiratory conditions to help clear breathing passages, remove environmental pollutants and ease inflammation.

Drug-Free Relief

Finally, if you do become sick, there are a few items you may be happy that you picked up in advance. Dual hot and cold packs for treating pain and inflammation, first aid kits for any emergencies and saline wipes are great options to help you ride out the worst of your illness.

Update: As of March 2020 with the passage of the CARES Act, the OTC Rx requirement has been repealed and prescriptions are no longer necessary to purchase over-the-counter medicines with an FSA or HSA. Additionally, menstrual care products like tampons and pads are fully FSA-/HSA-eligible. Learn more here.

Am I ready?

We encourage our readers to visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) website often for the latest updates on COVID-19 and the best actionable information you can use to safeguard your family.

COVID-19 is a definite concern and it's spread will be generally disruptive, difficult and possibly dangerous for some at-risk groups. But taking real steps to mitigate the effects it will have on you or your family isn't an overreaction — it's a responsible choice that your FSA can help you achieve.

Eligibility

That's Eligible?! Using FSA dollars for eye care

Considering nearly two out of every three Americans wear prescription glasses, it's surprising there's so much confusion around the FSA eligibility of eye wear and vision care. What's even more surprising is why more Americans aren't using their tax-free funds to pay for the products and services necessary to maintain proper eye health. And we're not just talking eyeglass repair kits and lens wipes -- there are some seriously surprising eye care items on our Eligibility List.

Since this winter is just getting started let's get ahead of your eye care and protection so you can make the most of the outdoors in the months ahead.

Contact lenses? Yes!

Let's be clear: there are plenty of places to buy contact lenses. But how many of them allow you to choose from a huge range of brands, entirely with your FSA, without wondering if the ones you want are eligible. Maybe we're a little biased, but we think you'll enjoy buying your contacts this way. (Oh, and when you pay with your FSA card, you can skip the receipts process!)

Prevention starts with protection…

No, we're not talking about high school health classBut the same thinking applies. According to a survey from The Vision Council, 75% of American adults in a survey are concerned about UV eye exposure, but only 31% report wearing sunglasses when going outside.

And cloudy days aren't much safer than sunny ones; you can still do some damage when it's overcast, because UV rays break through clouds and can damage unprotected eyes. Prescription sunglasses are FSA-eligible, so what's stopping you from being smarter than the 69% of people who leave their eyes unprotected?

Some lesser-known eye care options

We've used plenty of digital ink showing how laser eye surgery (more commonly known as LASIK) is completely eligible for FSA and HSA reimbursement. And we hope people are realizing that LASIK surgery is often inexpensive enough to cover entirely with their flexible spending funds.

It's not limited to LASIK, either. Medically necessary treatments and routine eye exams are all part of FSA eligible vision care.

Now, for arguably the most surprisingly eligible vision care expense of all -- guide dogs. The National Federation of the Blind has a list of guide dog schools that can connect you or your loved ones with the right service animal, should you need assistance getting around because of visual impairment or blindness.

Other eligible eye and ear care


----

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.

Accounts

Flex-Ed: What happens if your FSA claim is denied?

It's embarrassing when your credit card is declined because it feels like everyone—the people in line and the cashier—is looking at you. The good news is that you typically know how to handle it: call the bank, try a different card, or check your balance.

But what happens if your FSA claim is declined? It often feels similar, but the next steps can be confusing. Here's everything you need to know if your FSA card is denied.

Don't panic

Regardless of why your card was denied, there's no need to be embarrassed. It doesn't mean you've done anything wrong and there's a good chance it's not even your fault. There are a lot of reasons your FSA claim might be denied and most have an easy fix. The first step is to figure out whether or not your card has been activated.

Forgetting to activate your card is a common oversight with a simple solution: call your card administrator or explore your company's benefits website to learn how to activate your card.

Double check your funds

Let's be honest: sometimes it's hard to keep track of everything and that includes your FSA card balance. If your FSA claim is denied, it might be because you had insufficient funds in your account or that the price of the item you tried to purchase is higher than your balance. Be sure to check your balance before you use your card again.

Make sure you're using an approved merchant

FSA cards come with a lot of specific rules and one of the primary rules is that you can only use your account to buy FSA-eligible items. Various restrictions are put on the card to ensure that you use the funds correctly, including limitations based on merchant type, limitations based on merchant systems and limitations based on merchant inventory, to name a few.

The easiest way to ensure that your items are eligible is by shopping at a store that exclusively sells FSA-eligible items. It takes the guesswork out of shopping and decreases the chances that your FSA card will be declined.

But, for the most part, your FSA card should work where it makes sense; at locations such as local pharmacies and drug stores, vision centers, doctor and dental offices, etc. But if you try to use your card at an ice cream parlor or an auto parts store, even if that ice cream parlor happens to sell FSA-eligible bandages, chances are your card won't work.

If you have questions about whether or not a specific merchant will allow your FSA card, you can contact your FSA administrator to find out.

Confirm with your employer that the item is eligible

Here's the deal: the IRS determines which items are FSA-eligible. However, employers can set their own eligibility rules as long as they are adhering to the IRS guidelines. In other words, it's important to check in with your FSA administrator and confirm that the item you tried to buy is FSA-eligible.

If your FSA card was declined but you decided to buy the item with a different card, then it's still a good idea to try and get reimbursed through your FSA. If you bought the item through FSAStore.com and the item was allowed under your plan guidelines, we guarantee that the item is FSA-eligible, so be sure to save your receipt and submit for reimbursement.


Save with bundles


--

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.

Basics

Asked and Answered: What happens to lost FSA money?

As you probably know from looking around our site, the 12/31 deadline is just about here. It's an exciting time for us, of course. But it's also an exciting time for FSA owners who have the chance to make the most of their tax-free funds, rather than forfeiting them due to the "use it or lose it" rule.

Whether we're reminding FSA holders of upcoming deadlines, or just sharing some information about these tax-free accounts, "use it or lose it" has become a tagline for our entire team. And, because we offer a growing selection of 4,000+ FSA-eligible products, people usually don't have any trouble using their FSA funds.

Still, with the deadline here, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit the most common questions about FSA funds -- what happens to the money that does get lost? No one likes losing money, no matter the amount. So we thought it was a good idea to remind people of what happens if they end up on the wrong side of the "use it or lose it" rule.

Let's cut to the chase…

You may not like this answer, but your unused FSA money returns to your employer. These funds can be used in a variety of ways, which we'll get to in a bit. Now, before you and your coworkers march down the hall with flaming torches, realize they're not the "bad guys" in this scenario. In fact, they're on your side, and are even taking some risks to make FSAs available to employees.

See it from your company's perspective

It's true -- your employer assumes a good amount of financial risk when you sign up for an FSA. That's because even though you get to contribute to your account little by little, through regular paycheck deductions, you actually have access to the entire year's allocation, right from the beginning of the plan year.

Who's fronting that money? You guessed it, the employers. And they're on the hook for any losses if you leave the company before making a full year's contribution.

In other words, if your plan year begins on January 1, and you opt for an expensive FSA-eligible procedure that week, you can use the entire year's allocation to pay for it tax-free. But if you quit a month later, your company is forced to eat that balance.

So, lost FSA funds from other employees can be used to offset these losses. It's not what your employers want to do. But it's certainly better for them than having to absorb the entire loss.

So where does it go from there?

While we certainly can't fault companies for wanting to protect themselves from potential financial losses, some choose to reinvest this "found" money into its people. No, they can't just refund you the exact amount you lost. But there are several ways they can share the wealth and ease the sting of lost funds.

1. Pooling

Though it's rare, companies could choose to give the money back to its employees directly. It's not as simple as refunding the exact amount lost to each person with an FSA, but employers might opt to pool the collective losses and distribute back to plan participants in a fair, uniform way.

(To be clear, any money returned to participants must be distributed to ALL participants -- not just those who lost funds that year.)

2. Administrative fees

Companies may choose to save these excess funds and use them as a way to offset the costs and fees involved in providing FSAs. By doing so, they can make it easier to offer these accounts to employees.

In this "worst case" scenario, your money ends up used in a way we outlined above. There is good news though -- your employer may offer a few options to help extend your funds and avoid losing them altogether.

1. Grace period

Many employers offer an FSA grace period -- something we've discussed quite a bit in our Learning Centers -- which gives you an extra 2.5 months to use their funds from the previous plan year. For example, if your plan year ends on December 31, you have until March 15 of the following year to use those funds before risking a loss.

2. Rollover

Another common FSA feature is the rollover option, which allows you to carry up to $500 of your FSA dollars to the following year, eliminating any last-minute rushes or lost funds.

Like we said at the beginning of the article, no one likes losing money, which is why we encourage users to create a budget and spend accordingly to meet your family's health care needs. But on the off chance you miss your FSA deadline, know that the money is safe, and might even find its way back to you before long.


--

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

That's Eligible?! Clearing the air with OTC nicotine replacement therapies

I don't think we need to lead off this post by stating that smoking and tobacco use is a public health problem. You already know this. And we haven't been silent in our support of anyone who chooses to quit, for themselves and others. Since Thursday, November 21 is the annual Great American Smokeout, we thought this is a good time to remind readers that quitting smoking is always a good idea, and that an FSA can help make it happen.

Over the last 20 years, U.S. smokers made the following gains:

  • According to the FDA, more than 400,000 additional attempts to quit tobacco use per year
  • And there was a 152% increase in OTC nicotine replacement therapy use (after making the switch from prescription to OTC remedies)

It all comes down to the public having access to OTC nicotine replacement therapies; that is, the same levels of access as it does to cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other items that introduce (and prolong) the problem.

The average smoker takes 5-7 attempts to quit before succeeding. That sounds like a lot of trying … if you're not a smoker. Some respond quickly to nicotine replacement therapies and rid themselves of the habit. Others find themselves struggling -- even returning to the habit after earlier success.

How can I use my FSA to help quit smoking?

Thankfully, smoking cessation products are eligible for reimbursement with a FSA, or an HSA and a prescription. Most of these OTC smoking cessation products contain nicotine, which "steps down" over time until the dependence is minimal. The most common FSA- and HSA-eligible cessation products include:

  • Patches: These small, adhesive patches slowly release nicotine through the skin and into the wearer's body. They are changed daily and typically worn for 8-12 weeks.
  • Gum: These pieces of gum carry a small amount of nicotine that is absorbed into the body through the mouth, and can be taken every 1-2 hours. Treatment typically lasts 12 weeks or more.
  • Lozenges: Similar to nicotine gum, but decidedly slower to take effect, these lozenges allow nicotine to be absorbed through the mouth and into the bloodstream. Up to 20 can be taken each day. These lozenges also prove effective after 12 or more weeks of use.
  • Inhalers: These small vaporizers emit a nicotine mist via a cartridge in the device that is designed to control sudden cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Typically, a smoker will average about a dozen cartridges per day for 12 weeks, and gradually taper down to zero over the next 12 weeks.
  • Nasal Spray: These sprays deliver a small, mildly concentrated dose of nicotine up to three times per hour. This treatment can last anywhere from three to six months.

One last note -- we know it seems like the above OTC therapies seem to take a long time. This is normal, and done by design. Stepping down from tobacco products has proven to be more successful than "cold turkey" attempts, reducing the likelihood of starting up again.

Besides, think of how long you smoked. We can't speak for anyone, but we're confident most would agree that 12 weeks of sprays, compared to countless years of smoking, is a relatively short amount of time.

Some healthy lifestyle products to consider

Don't go it alone...

Your chances of kicking the habit grow considerably when you join a smoking cessation support group. These gatherings of like-minded individuals is great for sharing the highs and lows of this experience, making the chore of establishing goals and improve accountability for quitting a team effort.

These groups are typically free and open to the public, but if they're not, don't worry, it's FSA- and HSA-eligible as long as you have a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from a physician.

Quitting smoking isn't easy. But it can be made easier through available OTC nicotine replacement therapies. If you're a smoker and still deciding the best course of action for breaking the habit, talk to your doctor and see what products are best to help you snuff tobacco for good.