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Basics

Podcast-Eligible: The 2019 FSA Deadline Countdown

Sean and Brad are back to dive deeper into the 2019 FSA Deadline, bringing some handy spending tips and recommendations, no matter the size of your remaining balance. It's a fun episode, offering holiday wishes and FSA deadline know-how, so you can go into 2020 with a zero balance and a plan for the year to come.

They also dive into FSA Store's Know Your Balance Challenge, where you can enter your info to potentially win one of three $880 prizes, to throw the New Year's Eve party of your dreams!

(If you want more ideas, head over to our shop, to find 4,000+ guaranteed-eligible health care items, with something for any budget...)

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Brad and Sean's Product Picks of the Month

Vibrathotics Premium Vibrating Insoles

Amazing (and amazingly quiet) vibration therapy you can wear everyday. We all get achy feet from time to time, and that's when vibration therapy can help.

MedAngel ONE Wireless Thermometer

The perfect companion for your medications. The Bluetooth thermometer is easy-to-use, compact, and connects to your smartphone

Eligibility

Product Pick of the Week: MedCline LP Shoulder Relief System

The MedCline LP Shoulder Relief System is a shoulder support pillow designed to provide relief from shoulder pain and offer side sleeper support and has garnered rave reviews from customers! Its patented arm pocket allows you to sleep on your side without putting pressure on your downside shoulder and arm.

Each component of the Shoulder Relief System works together to lift the user's shoulder and arm areas up to ease pressure on these parts of the body to alleviate pain and discomfort. The Shoulder Relief System is also fully adjustable and users can sleep on their left or right side to find what's most comfortable for them.

For those feeling the lingering effects of an old sports injury to those suffering with arthritis in the shoulder, the MedCline LP allows you to once again sleep comfortably on your side. The Shoulder Relief System comes complete with a therapeutic body pillow to create unparalleled side-sleeping comfort. The entire package will only take up ½ of a queen sized bed, so users can rest assured that their Shoulder Relief System will not disturb their partners.

The Shoulder Relief System is also built to last. Each device is with multiple types of medical-grade foam, strategically placed and layered for maximum support and product longevity. All components of the LP Shoulder Relief System are removable, machine washable and additional covers are available for purchase.

Finally, a new sleep position can be a difficult adjustment, but new users should expect to adjust to this shoulder support pillow in about 30 days as the foam breaks in and users adapt to a new nighttime routine.

  • Acts as your own personal mattress topper
  • 45" long, MedCline LP creates a gradual 5-8 degree incline
  • Full-length body pillow adds lower back support
  • Can sleep on right or left side
  • Medical-grade materials for quality, support, and longevity
  • Complete with removable and washable cases

Other soothing pain relief

dpl Pain Relief Neck Pillow

$99.99

Omron electroTHERAPY Max Power Relief Device

$69.99


Basics

Guide to using your FSA card

FSA cards are pretty common these days – almost every FSA provider gives you one to help using your funds (and tracking your spending) easier. But if you're new to FSAs (or at least new to these cards) you probably have some questions about how they work, where they can be used, what they're NOT for, etc. etc.

Well, if you haven't figured it out by now, we love making guides for these types of things.

A big-picture look at the humble-but-awesome FSA card

Flex spending cards are essentially the same as debit cards but used only to cover eligible medical expenses. In some cases, FSA holders who wish to access their funds are required to pay an out-of-pocket expense, and then submit receipts to their benefits administrator. Employees get reimbursed once the paperwork is submitted for eligible expenses.

FSA cards make the reimbursement process much easier by automatically withdrawing funds from the debit card. However, if an FSA holder opts to make a purchase with his/her card for a product or service that is a non-health care merchant, this merchant has to support an inventory information approval system (IIAS).

We could go into a lot of details about these systems, but there's no need to bore you with jargon. The key takeaway about these systems is: They verify eligibility so you're not hit with a surprise denial. When you use your card, the computers immediately recognize eligible vs. non-eligible expenses, so you can shop accordingly, and play by the rules!

That's basically it. BUT, if you ventured here wondering about the difference between FSA and HSA cards, guess what? They function in the exact same ways. And the information below will help you understand how to handle your card.

Ways to check the balance on your FSA card

  • Log into patient portal
  • Use the provider app
  • Call TPA at the number provided
  • Some retailers might also have balance information available at the bottom of their receipts.

Waiting to get reimbursed for an FSA-eligible item the traditional way can be a little mind-numbing—filing paperwork with your FSA administrator, waiting for approval and paying out of pocket in the meantime. Luckily, the FSA card streamlines the process.

The reason? Your FSA card is linked directly to your FSA. But here's the deal, FSA cards are slightly different than standard debit cards and come with their own set of rules. Here's what you'll want to keep in mind.

You can't withdraw money from an ATM

A significant difference between the FSA card and a standard debit card is that you can't grab cash from an ATM using your FSA funds. No - this is strictly for eligible health care expenses.

The easiest way to be sure your purchases are eligible is to shop at a store that exclusively sells FSA-eligible items (hint, you're already here). It removes the guesswork and allows you to focus on getting the items you need without having to file for reimbursement.

You can't use it in every store

It might sound obvious, but it's important to note that you can't use your FSA card at just "any" store, unless the purchases are eligible for FSA reimbursement.

In order to be able to use your FSA card, either the merchant category must be approved by the FSA administrator or card issuer, or the merchant must be specifically approved or the merchant must have a system in place to allow the use of the card on FSA-eligible items.

What to do if your card is lost

Having your payment information or identity stolen is about as scary and uncomfortable as it gets. And having it happen to your FSA is no different. But it's important to not panic.

We know money is money, but these accounts are as safe as any other banking you might do -- as long as you're careful and have good records of your purchases (yes, even with the card) all will turn out right.

What happens if I lose my FSA card or get hacked?

If a fraudulent purchase has been made with your FSA, you'll need to notify your administrator immediately so that they can open an investigation. Once the investigation is completed, your funds will be reimbursed into your account.

Keep in mind, your account will likely be shut off until the investigation is complete, and a new card will have to be sent to you. Keep this in mind when making additional purchases, so you can still use the traditional reimbursement approach to access the tax-free funds.

How to keep your FSA safe

While there isn't a 100% guaranteed method to preventing fraud, there are steps you can take to help keep your FSA safe. You'll want to treat your FSA card (and all of your account info, for that matter) with the same care and precautions that you would give any debit or credit card.

An FSA card doesn't have nearly as many places where it can be used, it's still a source of funds that people can purchase items they need. And because of that, it's important to treat FSA fraud like any form of card theft.

First off, it's pretty clear you should keep your physical card in a safe place where others can't easily access it. You should sign the back of your card as soon as you get it, and never store a PIN with the card.

Also, don't give your card number to anyone you don't trust. We could do another guide of all the places NOT to give your card number. But for now, one place you definitely shouldn't is over the phone, unless you're the one who made the call to a business or medical office, so you know the people you're speaking to are legit.

If you do give your card number out over the phone, make sure you're speaking with a reputable outlet, and are in a private place where others can't overhear the information.

(And never, ever provide your card number through email. No reputable store would ever ask you to do this. Shop smart, everyone!)

If you're making payments online, be sure to use a secure connection. Never make payments or enter your info over a public Wi-Fi connection. This makes you vulnerable to hackers who can easily access your account. Only make purchases from merchants that you trust who have a secure website.

Your FSA plan administrator is your friend

This all may seem obvious … but just for peace-of-mind and a quick resolution to any problems you might have, reach out to your plan administrator, to see their policies on processes, proper card use, etc. And always keep a copy of your confirmation for your records.

They can probably help you better organize and protect documents and receipts that may contain sensitive account information. And they can help keep your contact information up-to-date so no one else can try to access your account using older information.

What to do if your FSA card is declined

It's embarrassing when your credit card is declined because it feels like everyone in the store 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 what you should know.

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 an 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.

No, we're not kidding. Forgetting to activate your card is a common oversight with a simple solution: call your 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 the merchant accepts FSA cards

For the most part, your FSA card should work where it makes sense; at locations like pharmacies, vision centers, doctor and dentist offices, etc. But if you try to use your card at a restaurant or bike shop, even if that bike shop 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.

(But let's be honest, did you really think a restaurant was going to accept pre-tax health care funds for that lobster roll?)

The easiest way to ensure that your items or services are eligible is by checking out our comprehensive Eligibility List, and 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.

Confirm with your employer that the item is FSA-eligible

The IRS determines which items are FSA-eligible. But employers can set their own eligibility rules as long as they're sticking 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 traditional means. 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.

But remember: items on FSAstore.com that are marked with a red checkmark are always FSA-eligible, while products marked with a BLUE "Rx" require a prescription from your doctor in order to be eligible.

Other helpful FSA card tips

You should still save your receipts

Even though you won't need to file your receipts for reimbursement after every purchase, you'll still need to save your receipts. The IRS requires all FSA purchases be backed up with proof, so if your employer gets audited, you'll have to show itemized documentation of your FSA card purchases. Your administrator will also require you to submit receipts on select FSA card purchases.

In nearly every situation, the card will be accepted and processed without worry. But there's no better way to fight off "unpleasant surprises" than by keeping good records. You should always keep paperwork for charges, not just in the event of a denied charge. Depending on where you use the card, you may need to submit a receipt or documentation even if it was approved.

Why? Because if your benefits administrator denies an FSA card charge, having this paperwork handy to verify eligibility will save you time and hassle down the line.

Pro Tip: Use electronic receipts whenever possible. Just create a file in your inbox and simply move your receipts there throughout the year. It's a painless way to ensure you're following the rules.

You can still file manually

By now, you've probably figured out that an FSA card makes life simpler, but like we mentioned above, you don't have to use it. If there's ever a time when you forget it at home or are working with a medical provider that doesn't accept it, then don't worry. You can still file for reimbursement the old-fashioned way and submit receipts to your FSA administrator.

Eligibility

Product Pick of the Week: Vibrathotics Premium Insoles

When doing these new Product Pick posts, we try to stay neutral -- with 4,000+ FSA-eligible products on our site, we have plenty of great items to choose from. But every now and then, our personal opinions take hold. And that's precisely what happened this week, when we learned about the Vibrathotics Premium Insoles.

According to the Vibrathotics website, these insoles "are different than any other insole on the market. We've taken the technology of a big, expensive, loud vibration plate and crammed it all into a compact, portable insole that can go everywhere you go."

In our words? Amazing (and amazingly quiet) vibration therapy you can wear everyday. We all get achy feet from time to time, and sometimes those aches need a little bit more than comfy socks. That's when vibration therapy can help.

Depending on the setting of Vibrathotics (low, medium, or high), you may or may not feel the vibration. But that doesn't mean you're not getting the therapeutic benefits from vibrations -- even on the lowest setting the vibration is stimulating the nerves and increasing circulation. And it makes a pretty immediate difference.

We've only had the Vibrathotics Premium Insoles a short time, but they've already proven to be a tremendous success, both with our coworkers and our readers.

Other foot care needs

Ultimate Foot Circulator with Remote

$219.99

Foot Care Bundle

$56.99


Eligibility

That's Eligible?! It's time to start thinking about those remaining FSA funds!

While most of the country is still wading through piles of Halloween candy, before you know it, we'll be carving turkeys and preparing for countless year-end celebrations. Yes, this time of year moves at a rapid pace, and if your FSA funds expire when the ball drops, it's best to start planning now.

But you still have plenty of time, so don't panic. We're here to help you navigate this turbulent time of year so you can spend more time being merry, and less time worrying about losing your hard-earned money.

Step 1. Check your deadlines

While MOST of the country uses the calendar year to determine FSA cutoffs, this is not mandatory! Your company might have a different deadline, giving you even more time to use your funds. It's not common, but this is entirely up to your benefits administrator (that's the number usually found on the back of your FSA card) so before you spend hastily, speak with them first.

Secondly, the IRS offers a grace period to employers that allows account holders the chance to make FSA-eligible medical costs up until March 15, as well as the option for a $500 rollover of your remaining funds into 2018. Both options are left up to your employer to choose one - or neither - so speak with your benefits administrator to confirm concrete deadlines, and specifics that determine how to best use your money.

Step 2. Assess your needs

Let's assume your FSA spending deadline coincides with Ryan Seacrest's annual visit to Times Square. As you might expect, account owners often opt to use FSA money to pay for medical needs not covered by insurance plans.

For example, vision coverage isn't always provided under certain plans, so customers can choose to get a new pair of glasses, or some extra contacts. Likewise, sources of alternative medical treatments, like chiropractic or acupuncture, aren't commonly covered on health plans, but are perfectly eligible for FSA spending.

(And, of course, general wellness visits and preventive care is always a good use of funds, as well. Start the new year the right way – get a flu shot and rest easier this coming winter.)

Step 3. Fill those medicine cabinet gaps

Now, this is where people might get a little hasty, so read on before grabbing a leaf bag and wiping out your shelves to get new replacements for older medications. There are a few things to remember when it comes to prescription and OTC medications.

This is an ideal time to replace expired products, prescription or otherwise. If you have some "take as needed" medications with questionable expiration dates, first call your medical professional to determine if you can obtain refills. Once confirmed, go ahead and shop with those FSA funds (and rest easier knowing your shelves are as current and well-planned as your healthcare spending).

Over-the-counter medication is a little trickier. you should strongly consider discarding an expired bottle of pain medication, just for safety's sake. However, if you have meds that are still within the expiration date, don't toss them just because you want fresh new bottles.

Remember that FSA funds cannot be used for OTC medications unless you get a doctor's prescription, in accordance with rules set forth in the Affordable Care Act. (Thankfully, we've created a thorough FSA Eligibility List that eliminates the confusion.) As always, be sure to confirm any questions with your benefits administrator.

Step 4. Get health care items you've always wanted (and needed)

So much of the FSA deadline is focused on filling needs, that we often forget how these funds can also be viewed as an opportunity to try new products. Perhaps that expensive sunscreen you wouldn't ordinarily purchase with your after-tax dollars? The choice is yours.

In other words, if there are healthcare items you've long desired, but never purchased because they weren't "necessary," consider your FSA funds the encouragement you need to treat yourself, and your health.

Some examples of FSA-eligible items you could use to improve your well-being include comforting shoe insoles, smartphone-compatible blood-pressure monitors, soothing steam vaporizers and more! Sure, you could continue to live without these products, but thanks to your FSA dollars, you can make them a part of a healthier, happier lifestyle for you and your family.

Please note: The above suggestions are just that; there are myriad ways to use those remaining flex spending funds for products, services and even transportation!

The word "deadline" has a negative connotation, but for those who know, the FSA spending cutoff is an exciting reminder for customers to use their funds for better health, all year long.

Strong spending ideas

Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotic Inserts

Customized layers of cushion and arch support will keep you feeling good.

$51.99

reVive Light Therapy® Spot Portable Acne Treatment

A gentle, noninvasive way to treat existing acne flare-ups and preventing future breakouts.

$29.00

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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

Product Pick of the Week: Caring Mill Travel Heating Pad

For a large majority of American families, at-home pain relief methods are pretty simple. Cold packs for injuries, pain relievers for headaches and general pain, and maybe an elastic bandage or athletic brace for a sprained ankle. But let me be the first to say that a good heating pad needs to be included in that conversation.

Caring Mill Travel Heating Pad

For this week's selection, let's take a closer look at the Caring Mill Travel Heating Pad, sold exclusively at FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com! Heating pads come in every shape and size imaginable, but we think this Caring Mill design for travel is a smart choice for all applications.

First aid

Muscle sprains and pulls can benefit from a combination of cold and heat therapy, such as using a heating pad in combination with a cold pack. According to Healthline, while cold packs can help reduce inflammation and pain for muscle pulls and sprains, heating pads are a great accompaniment that can help open blood vessels to allow oxygenated blood to flow faster to the affected area and boost your recovery. In addition to acute injuries, heating pads are smart choices for chronic pain issues like lower back pain, joint issues and more.

Abdominal pain relief

Whether the source of your pain is a stomach virus or menstrual cramps, abdominal pain is a tough nut to crack. Heating pads are one of the few treatment methods available that can increase circulation to these areas to reduce pain and loosen up tight muscles that could be contributing to cramping.

Pre-/post-workout treatment

Finally, if you're a gym rat, heating pads have a wide range of uses that can help you limber up and treat pain issues that may arise from heavy workouts. As we explained above, heating pads in tandem with cold packs are a smart choice for sports injuries, but if you have a troublesome muscle or joint issue hobbling you before a workout, applying a heating pad to this area can help you loosen up to get ready for physical activity.

So if you fit into any of the above criteria or looking to upgrade your pain relief regimen, give the Caring Mill Travel Heating Pad a try. In addition to serving all of your home pain relief needs, it's small enough to throw into your carry-on or overnight bag to take your heat therapy on the road.

Finally and most importantly, every purchase of a Caring Mill product will support Children's Health Fund, which is committed to providing health care to America's disadvantaged youth. That's a win-win for everyone involved!

More from Caring Mill!

Caring Mill™ Essential First-Aid Kit 160pc

This is a great every day first-aid kit that offers a variety of bandages and medical supplies to cover the most common medical situations.

$34.99

Caring Mill™ Wireless TENS Therapy Kit

Complete, drug-free pain relief Wireless TENS Therapy Starter Kit which includes TENS control unit, one electrode pad, battery, and storage case that is portable and easy to travel with.

$34.99
Eligibility

Asked and Answered: Why aren't comfort and relaxation considered for FSA eligibility?

The truth is, there's a lot more to your overall well-being than routine doctor's appointments and prescription medications. Being comfortable and taking the time to relax is important for both physical and mental health.

But, if you've ever looked at our FSA eligibility list, you've probably noticed an absence of things like massages, yoga classes, meditation retreats, and other things that can enhance your well-being. This is because the IRS has strict guidelines about what is considered a qualified medical expense, and comfort and relaxation currently don't fit into those standards.

Why aren't they qualified expenses?

According to the IRS, for an expense to be eligible the item or service needs to be for the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of a disease or condition. Items and services that you purchase solely for your comfort and relaxation generally don't fit into any of these categories. So while they might be necessary for your overall comfort, they aren't considered a medical necessity.

The good news is that you can still use your FSA funds to help achieve comfort and relaxation, as long as that comfort comes from treating a specific medical need.

So, what's eligible?

There are many items and services that you can purchase with your FSA that will help you find comfort and relax. Many people are surprised to learn just how many items are considered eligible expenses and find that they can make purchases that allow them to achieve what they're looking for. Some of these items include:

Acupressure Mats: In this writer's eyes, all discussions of FSA-eligible pain relief start here. Acupressure mats are an excellent way to relieve muscle discomfort, and many people find them to be the perfect remedy for back pain after a long day of sitting in an office chair.

When used regularly, they can even help improve circulation and flexibility. They're eligible for reimbursement with your FSA and can be used just about anywhere you have room to lay down.

Acupuncture Therapy: This centuries-old technique is popular amongst people who suffer from chronic pain and discomfort. The acupuncture technician uses thin needles to target precise points on your body which will ease the pain. In addition to muscular pain, many people use this technique to find relief from frequent migraines.

And acupuncture therapy is generally considered FSA-eligible without a prescription. In some cases, administrators may require a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) to substantiate the expense, so check with yours before making that appointment.

Heating Pads: Heating pads are a popular and simple way to ease pain and provide comfort. Applying heat can help ease muscle pain, menstrual cramps, ear aches, and headaches. These pads are FSA-eligible and come in a variety of styles and sizes.

Foot Circulators: Not a month goes by where someone from our writing team sings the praises of these foot circulators. And once you try one, there's a good chance you'll do the same thing.

If you spend a lot of time on your feet, you've probably experienced tired, aching feet on a regular basis. Foot circulators help relieve this discomfort with electrical stimulation. This eases pain, improves circulation, and helps minimize swollen ankles and legs. These circulators are FSA-eligible and can make staying on your feet all day considerably more comfortable.

So, what's the takeaway here? While you can't turn to your FSA exclusively for comfort and relaxation purposes, it doesn't mean you won't enjoy those benefits while treating your specific medical needs. Because, after struggling with some serious aches and pains over the years, there's nothing more relaxing than treating and relieving it with the products mentioned above.

Therapeutic favorites...

90-Minute Oska Pulse Electromagnetic Massage Unit

This is a non-drug solution to pain relief that uses pulsed electromagnetic fields to increase circulation, reduce inflammation and improve mobility.

dpl® Oral Care Light Therapy System

Medically proven to increase circulation, enhance gum health, and relieve pain/soreness.

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From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our weekly Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears every Wednesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

Real Money: Let's talk baby skin

Yeah, we've gone a little "baby crazy" lately, but summer is full of travel and outdoor activities, and parents need to be ready for anything that can happen in the warm weather. Especially if your kids have sensitivities.

My son has eczema, and it's no walk in the park. In fact, it seems to be exacerbated whenever we go outside in the heat like -- well -- to the park. Between swapping out skin care items like lotions, detergent, and diaper rash creams, to trying several brands of sunscreen, we've definitely bought our fair share of products, many of which are FSA-eligible.

From baby acne to eczema to prickly heat to stubborn diaper rash, here are our picks for the best ways to combat baby skin issues. Some are even FSA-eligible. Score.

Eczema

While buying a good eczema cream is a must for babies suffering from this skin condition, it isn't the only product you'll need. Since many sunscreens can aggravate the issue, you'll likely try a few different types of zinc-based baby sunscreen until you find a formula that doesn't irritate their skin.

Worth noting: Anything branded specifically for babies tends to be more expensive, so it's a good thing your FSA has you covered.

You also may need to change up other items your little one's skin comes into contact with, like detergents, lotions, or cleaning supplies. And if all else fails, your child's pediatrician may provide you with some prescription-level relief, also FSA-eligible.

Baby acne

Babies aren't always at their cutest. But what makes the situation worse? A case of baby acne. This skin condition affects about 20% of newborns, and looks like tiny white pimples or even whiteheads. There's really not a definite cure, other than keeping their skin clean and patting it dry. Use a gentle baby cleanser for that.

If the condition worsens or doesn't go away on its own, it may warrant a visit to your child's pediatrician, who may prescribe a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide topical treatment.

Other skin issues

Heat rash is another common skin issue in babies, especially during the summer . Also known as prickly heat or miliaria, this crops up when baby gets a bit too warm. This rash looks like raised red bumps or even tiny blisters under the skin, and happens more often in babies because they can't sweat as effectively as adults. Plus, they have those wonderfully chunky arm and leg rolls.

Troubleshoot this issue by keeping baby out of the heat, giving them a lukewarm bath, and avoiding lotions. Though if he or she seems itchy, some FSA-eligible baby powder might help.

While common, diaper rash can be one tough rash to kick since your baby is likely sporting a diaper 95% of the time. Try an FSA-eligible diaper rash cream like A&D ointment. Another cure for diaper rash? Going sans-diaper for a few minutes a day around your house or outside. This one works wonders—if you're willing to risk it, that is.

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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.

Living Well

Real Money: How your FSA can lead to better sleep

Getting enough sleep can be a constant battle. If you struggle, you know how much it impacts every day of your life. It can mess with everything from your hormones to brain function. Sleep problems may even contribute to major health problems like obesity and depression.

Lack of sleep may cause a lot of havoc, but luckily, there are ways to try and fix it. If you are worried about the money, consider using your flexible spending account (FSA). It's a great way to spend tax-free dollars on getting some shut-eye. Here are four FSA-eligible options you may not have considered.

Improve your sleeping environment

Sometimes, adjusting your bedroom environment can make a big difference. You don't have to break the bank with a full-scale renovation. Try experimenting with a few small changes over time.

If you can't add room-darkening blinds, try blocking out light with a pain alleviating sleep mask. This lavender comfort wrap not only reduces pain through hot or cold therapy, but as a bonus it helps promote relaxation. If you are a light sleeper, try a white noise machine or earplugs to block out extra sounds.

It's a good idea to avoid gadgets, electronics, and bright lights. You should replace your mattress every 5-7 years and invest in comfy bedding. Experts say the ideal sleep temperature is around 65 degrees.

Are digestion issues keeping you awake?

It's common to experience acid reflux or heartburn after a big meal. But if this happens often, it could be gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. If you are pregnant or overweight, these symptoms may be even more likely.

If it happens at night, while you are lying down, a wedge medical pillow may offer some relief. These pillows keep your stomach acid at bay by elevating your head, shoulders, and torso.

Too anxious or stressed? See a professional.

Sleep issues are often linked to mental health problems. Your poor sleep may be the result of anxiety, substance abuse, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These issues may not go away on their own. Lack of sleep may be making your symptoms worse. If you suspect one of these issues may be your underlying problem, don't be afraid to seek treatment.

Consider a sleep study

If you have made a bunch of lifestyle changes and still struggling, consider a sleep study. These tests can measure your sleep cycles to find out where your patterns are being disturbed. A sleep study may help your doctor diagnose one of these common problems:

  • Chronic insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Periodic limb movement disorder
  • REM sleep behavior disorder
  • Sleep apnea
  • Other unusual sleep behaviors

If your doctor uncovers one of theses issues, they may schedule a follow-up appointment. From there, they can recommend further treatment options to try and resolve the problem.

You don't have to suffer through chronic sleep problems

If you have been suffering from sleep problems for a while, you know how devastating the effects can be. It's tough to slog through every day feeling exhausted, with no relief in sight. If you have already tried a bunch of things, with the same disappointing result, it may be time to speak with your doctor.

With any luck, they may diagnose the problem and get you started with a treatment plan. Before you know it, you may finally achieve that elusive good night's sleep.

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Whether you budget week-to-week, or plan to use your FSA for bigger things, our weekly Real Money column will help you maximize your flex spending dollars. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.




Eligibility

Flex-Ed: Gift yourself some health this Father's Day

Father's Day is this Sunday. While the dads reading this probably have received their share of personalized mugs, new ties, or even a homemade pencil cup, there's a good chance they aren't getting things they actually need to keep them safely and happily "dadding" throughout the year.

And since you can't use an FSA for anyone but yourself and eligible dependents, it's the perfect time to get yourself something that promotes better health. We decided to break from the norm with this week's Flex-Ed to highlight some top FSA-eligible picks for all our favorite dads this year. Because the last thing you need is another grill apron.

Ultimate Foot Circulator with Remote

This foot circulator delivers prescription-strength relief, treats stiff muscles, and increases circulation in both your feet and ankles. It even comes with its own remote. A few nights with this awesome form of relief and you'll be back in those lawn-mowing shoes in no time. After all, no one mows symmetrical stripes in a lawn quite like dad.

CPAP Mask and accessory cleaner

Like it or not, you probably snore. In fact, about 40% of men are snorers. (That's compared to only 24% of women, but who's keeping track?) But jokes aside, snoring can be indicative of more serious (and even life-threatening) conditions like sleep apnea.

This Father's Day, perhaps it's time to come to grips with this sobering fact and look into CPAP therapy for your own snoring. If doctors agree you'd benefit, you can use your FSA to invest in a CPAP mask and accessory cleaner, which uses UV light to kill 99% of the machine's bacteria in just five minutes.

Maybe it's not the most fun item on this list. But there's nothing more enjoyable than a healthy dad and a good night's sleep (for everyone).

Acid reflux relief system

If dad's not already grilling, Father's Day often ends up in a nice dinner out -- usually at one of his favorite chain restaurants. Think Applebee's, Chili's, or if you're feeling fancy, The Olive Garden. And let's face it, the never-ending breadstick bowl can result in some pretty gnarly heartburn.

That's where the MedCline Acid Reflux Relief System comes in. It creates the ideal inclined, left-side sleeping position to help ease the pain while promoting better digestion. It's also really comfortable and ergonomic, so dad wins twice on this one.

Nausea bands

Traveling this Father's Day? Chances are an amusement park is on your short list of destinations. Remember when you used to be able to ride roller coasters and not need to sit down immediately afterward? Yep, those were the good ol' days.

Since your kids will likely show no mercy when you take them to an amusement park, you'll need the Reliefband 2.0 Nausea Relief band. It's a drug-free, fast-acting way to relieve the effects of motion sickness. It also kinda looks like an Apple Watch, so there's that.

Owlet Baby Monitor

And for you newly minted members of the dad club out there, perhaps investing in the Owlet Smart Sock 2 Baby Monitor. This isn't just your run-of-the-mill baby monitor. The sock portion wraps about your baby's foot, tracking heart rate, oxygen levels, and sleep then sends the info to the base using Bluetooth technology.

While you probably won't be getting much sleep with a new baby at home, this will help everyone sleep a bit easier. Because it's probably going to be a few years before you're putting your child to sleep with your arsenal of dad jokes.

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New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our Flex-Ed column gives you a 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.




Living Well

Asked and Answered: How can I use my FSA to handle ongoing allergies?

If you struggle with seasonal allergies -- yes, even in the heart of summer -- you know how difficult they can be. Itchy eyes and sneezing are tough to bear, especially when the pollen count is high. If over-the-counter drugs aren't enough, it may be time for a more proactive approach.

It may not always be cheap, but your flexible spending account (FSA) could make allergy treatment easier to pay for. Here's some things you might want to know.

What causes seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies are rough. Before tackling them head-on, it may help to understand why they actually happen. Allergies occur when your immune system flags a substance — like pollen or mold — as "dangerous" to your body. For protection, your body reacts with inflammation. This may include your digestive system, skin, or sinuses. You can tell from the onslaught of sneezing, congestion, coughing or other symptoms.

Visit an allergist to prevent seasonal allergies

The problem with seasonal allergies is once they begin, they can be difficult to control. Over-the-counter remedies may not be enough. They may leave you with less money, without a lot of progress to show for it.

If your seasonal allergies are severe, you may want to see a doctor before your symptoms begin. They may suggest skin tests or blood work to identify your main triggers. From there, they may offer a customized treatment plan.

Start with the right over-the-counter drugs

Over-the-counter allergy drugs usually aren't cheap. Luckily, with a doctor's prescription, you can use your FSA or health savings account (HSA) to pay for them. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Cromolyn sodium nasal spray - This drug may prevent allergies, but only if you use it before the symptoms begin.
  • Decongestants - These may come in either pill or nasal spray form. Oral decongestants may offer temporary relief from a stuffy nose. But they shouldn't be used every day — or your symptoms may get worse. Here's what to look for in the drugstore:
  • Oral decongestants - pseudoephedrine - brand names like Sudafed or Afrinol
  • Nasal sprays - oxymetazoline (Afrin) or phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine)
  • Oral antihistamines - These drugs may relieve allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy skin, watery eyes, or a runny nose. Some of the most popular options include:
  • Loratadine - brand names Claritin or Alavert
  • Cetirizine - brand name Zyrtec Allergy
  • Fexofenadine - brand name Allegra Allergy
  • Loratadine-pseudoephedrine - Claritin-D
  • Fexofenadine-pseudoephedrine - Allegra-D

Consider allergy shots

If over-the-counter remedies aren't enough, your doctor may suggest allergy shots. Once you know what causes trouble, your doctor can start allergen immunotherapy. This involves getting regular shots or tablets.

The treatment includes exposure to small amounts of the problem substance. Over time, your immune system may be more comfortable with the substance and skip flares from future contact.

Be proactive with seasonal allergies

Seasonal allergies make it hard to enjoy the warmer months. Rather than reacting when symptoms flare, consider a more proactive approach. By getting ahead of your seasonal allergies, your day-to-day activities, including time outdoors, will be a lot more comfortable.

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From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears on Wednesdays, 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

Asked and Answered: Can I pay my spouse's insurance premiums with my FSA?

If you're married and have an FSA, you've probably wondered whether or not you can use it to pay for your spouse's health insurance premiums.

So, let's get right to it. Unfortunately, the answer is no, you can't use your FSA to pay for your spouse's health insurance since premiums don't qualify as an eligible FSA expense (which means you can't use your FSA for your own insurance premiums, either).

Maybe that's not the news you wanted to hear. But the important details come from learning why they don't qualify. So, let's take a look at why your spouse's insurance premiums aren't covered - and learn what is - so you know what to expect when planning medical expenses for your family.

Why can't I use an FSA to pay for my spouse's health insurance premiums?

The IRS determines what expenses are eligible for FSA coverage. So, while health insurance premiums help pay for medical care, the money you pay to the company isn't being directly applied to any specific treatment or diagnosis for a medical condition. This means that insurance premiums don't fall into any FSA-eligible categories.

The purpose of an FSA is to cover out-of-pocket expenses for medical care that aren't already covered by your regular health insurance. It's meant to help you bridge the gap between what your insurance pays and what you're expected to pay by allowing you to use pre-tax dollars set aside in your paycheck.

Are there any exceptions?

We don't like doing it again, but no, there aren't any exceptions to this rule. You can't use your FSA to pay for your spouse's health insurance premiums under any circumstances, even if your spouse has healthcare coverage through COBRA.

So what is covered?

You can use your FSA to cover any of yours or your spouse's eligible expenses that aren't already covered by a health insurance plan, including co-pays, diagnostic tests, hospital stays, deductibles, prescriptions, and insulin.

Over-the-counter medications that have been prescribed by a doctor, as well as medical equipment like blood sugar testing kits, bandages, braces and crutches, are also eligible. You can even request an FSA debit card (if applicable to your plan) for your spouse to make it easier to pay for these types of eligible expenses.

At times you'll find that your spouse's health insurance will only cover a portion of the cost of necessary medical procedures. In these cases, you can also use your FSA to cover the remaining balance.

Something to keep in mind is that eligible expenses must be incurred in the current plan year to be reimbursed. You won't be able to use your FSA to cover any appointments or procedures that took place prior to the annual start date of your plan.

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From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears on Wednesdays, 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

That's Eligible?! How I got serious about spring skin protection

Did you know that Florida has the highest skin cancer rate in the country? That's why when my family moved to the Sunshine State, I knew it was time to start taking my skin health seriously -- especially this time of year.

You might already know that sunscreen is FSA-eligible. But did you know that trips to the dermatologist, protective lip balm, even some sunscreen/bug spray combos are also on the eligible list? Here's how to form healthy skin care and protection health habits – without skipping the sunshine altogether.

Use sunscreen everyday (no skipping)

I knew it was time to change my skin protection habits when I'd make it a habit to cover my son in sunscreen from head to toe before we went to the park, beach, or zoo – but I'd completely forget to cover myself.

Now, I keep a basket of sunscreen by my front door. Baby sunscreen for him, and sunscreen and protective lip balm for me. We also both usually wear hats when outdoors, which the CDC says can help reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Find the right sunscreen

Sunscreen is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Take advantage of the many FSA-eligible sunscreen options, from mineral sunscreens to quick-drying formulas, even extra-hydrating options.

While some busy parents buy a jumbo bottle of sunscreen and slather it on the whole family, most sunscreens are too strong or irritating for a young child's skin. Experts recommend that kids' sunscreen be SPF30+, have UVA and UVB ray protection, and is water-resistant.

Another reason it's important that you find a sunscreen just right for your little one? Just one blistering sunburn during childhood can nearly double skin cancer rates.

Invest in other types of sun protection

Your sunscreen options aren't just limited to sprays and lotions. Stock up on protective sun clothing for the whole family. Many retailers offer sun shirts, bathing suits and sun hats with SPF50 or higher, offering one more layer between your skin and the sun's damaging rays.

Also worth considering? High-quality sunglasses that offer UV protection for your eyes. Prescription sunglasses are eligible, as long as the lens also provide vision correction. And don't forget about your lips. Protective lip balm is another FSA-eligible way to keep your skin in top shape this summer.

If you want more bang for your buck, try investing in an SPF15+ sunscreen/bug repellent combo. Since bug spray alone isn't covered by your FSA, this is a great chance to kill two birds (er, bugs?) with one stone.

Always turn to the professionals

No, we're not talking about professional sunbathers. One of the most important steps you can take to take care of your skin is to visit your dermatologist at least once a year for a skin cancer screening. During the screening, your doctor will check for changes in size, shape, or color of moles or freckles, or look for other changes in your skin, which could be an early sign of skin cancer.

If the idea of stripping down to your skivvies and letting a stranger inspect your moles at close range doesn't top your to-do list, keep the facts in mind. It might just save your life.

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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 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.