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Basics

[WATCH] What's an FSA letter of medical necessity?

In short, an LMN is like a doctor's note. Having an LMN can help you get FSA reimbursement for any product or service that falls outside the IRS definition of "medical care" (but can assist the treatment of a condition).

In other words -- LMNs can be really helpful in getting you the products and services you need with your tax-free funds, without having to try and explain it in a reimbursement claim after the fact. But why explain it in text when our team does it way better in our latest video?

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And for a closer look at LMNs, along with a healthy dose of everything flex spending, check out the rest of our Learning Center!

Accounts

Asked and Answered: What does "double dipping" mean with an FSA?

If you're new to flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and been through some training about these accounts, you've probably heard about "double dipping." And if you've read the fine print on any claim you've submitted, you may have already stated you won't do this. But what if you're not 100% sure about what constitutes a "double dip?"

In everyday terms, double dipping is the act of being reimbursed for the same expense twice, which can happen a lot of ways with your FSA. And it's also considered unethical, especially in the eyes of your employer.

By claiming FSA reimbursement, you're unable to seek payment for things already paid for pre-tax, or things you intend to pay with another tax-free health account. This can happen without even knowing it (more on that in a bit).

If double dipping is noticed by your FSA administrator, they'll ask you to pay your FSA back. If you don't, they may withhold future claims from payment or even shut off your card. What's worse, if it goes unnoticed by your FSA administrator, you're risking the compliance of your FSA for the entire company, as proper use of the plan is a requirement to maintain tax-free status.

It's an awful thought - so let's discuss the ways double dipping can happen and how you can avoid it.

Double expensing

One common form of double dipping is by paying for an FSA-eligible expense with your FSA card, and then submitting the same expense for reimbursement. Most benefits administrators can catch these mistakes pretty quickly. But if a claim does go through and you get reimbursed twice for the same expense, you'll have to pay it back to your administrator if they become aware of the issue.

Claiming through separate accounts

Let's say you and your spouse each have FSAs through your respective employers. If you pay for a copayment or FSA-eligible product and submit a claim for that expense under both accounts, this is another clear example of double dipping.

Get ahead of this -- keep your claims separate for each account to avoid problems down the line.

Double dipping can be an honest mistake, but if you make a real effort to double your reimbursements for qualifying healthcare expenses there can be big consequences. To avoid this, use your FSA card whenever possible, and keep your receipts organized to avoid any issues down the line.

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

Basics

Flex-Ed: Common FSA mistakes (and how can you fix them)

Money mistakes are inevitable. No matter how hard you try to budget and save, there will also be unexpected expenses and unplanned events.

Like most people, I've made my share of financial mistakes (like the time I spent $90 on an UberSelect). But there's one mistake that I've vowed to never make again.

I will never again ignore the HSA and FSA options offered through my employer. I learned that lesson the hard way when I lost out on thousands in savings during my first full-time job.

But here's the deal—I'm not the only person who has made mistakes with flexible spending accounts. Whether you forget to enroll or fail to save receipts, you're not alone. Here's some thoughts on oversights, written by people just like you, giving some inside views about all-too-common FSA mistakes.

Keep your receipts

It seems silly, but it can be difficult to remember to keep your receipts, especially when you're in a hurry or feel sick, but it's important to maintain documentation for all of your FSA purchases. Whether it's for reimbursement from your employer or for tax purposes, it's always a good idea to have a paper trail.

"[A common mistake] is not keeping all the receipts for medical expenses or assuming all medical expenses qualify. It's important to talk to the provider of the plan and ask questions before assuming it will be taken care of," advises KJ Dykema, an insurance professional in Seattle.

In fact, even if you have an FSA card, the IRS still requires that most FSA reimbursements have a receipt. Plus, your employer may ask for a copy of itemized deductions to confirm that a purchase was eligible for reimbursement through your FSA. If your employer asks for a receipt and you can't produce one, you may be asked to pay back the expenses.

When in doubt, keep your receipt. Your future self will thank you.

Reevaluate your FSA allocations each year

Thanks to the tax reform bill passed in December 2017, your taxes are different this year. That means that your tax rate might have changed since you made your FSA elections in 2017. This is important to consider as you think about how much to put away for next year.

"Consider your medical expenses for this year before making any changes to your FSA for next year. If you think you are having trouble meeting what you put away this year, put less. With lower tax rates, you will be giving up less if you happen to spend more," advises Russell Rivera, President of Voice Wealth Management in New York, New York.

It's always a good idea to estimate your health expenses for the year, but you don't need to panic if you have some money left over. You're always able to spend your FSA funds on health-related products.

Know the differences between accounts

It might sound simple, but one of the best things you can do to avoid any potential mistakes is to know the difference between an FSA and an HSA (or an FSA and other types of pre-tax accounts you may be offered)..

"An FSA is owned by your employer. Make sure you are crystal clear on what the rules are for your particular plan. Know the rules and understand the basics between an FSA and a HSA," explains Chris Ball, a financial advisor in Michigan.

There are some notable differences between the two options and determining which one is better for you will ultimately depend on your eligibility and needs.

Bottom line

It's never fun to make mistakes, but the good news is that mistakes help you learn. Whether you're a first time FSA user or a seasoned pro, it's always a good idea to triple check your paperwork, read the fine print and evaluate your plan each year.

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

May FSA Mailbag! Your top Learning Center questions answered!

Each month, we receive hundreds of great questions from our customers about everything relating to FSAs in ourFSA Learning Center. This past April, we received a number of fantastic questions relating to product eligibility and account coverage, which may be helpful to other FSA users as well.

Here are our favorite Learning Center questions that could help you see your consumer-directed healthcare account in a new way.

"How do I get reimbursed for a humidifier?"

Humidifiers are only eligible for FSA reimbursement with a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from a physician that is submitted with a traditional claim. This letter must outline how a humidifier will be used to treat a specific medical condition, and its pivotal role in the treatment process. We actually covered this topic in one of our most recent blog posts, as products like air filters, humidifiers and air purifiers fall into a gray area of FSA eligibility.

"Can I redact personal information on receipts that I submit for reimbursement?"

A plan administrator will need to know specific information about a potentially eligible item or service and the person for whom the claim is being submitted for in order to approve an expense. However, it may be possible to withhold certain information that a member does not wish to share on a receipt. For details on exactly what information will be needed to approve your expense, please contact your plan administrator, whose information can typically be found on the back of your account debit-card or by asking your employer for their contact information.

"Can I use my FSA to pay for prescription scuba mask?"

Scuba diving is not a medically necessary activity, therefore, it would most likely not be eligible for FSA reimbursement. However, your benefits administrator will be able to provide you with further details. Sometimes when an item must be altered to meet the needs of a medical condition, the cost difference in the specified item vs. the item without the medical component will qualify. To find out if you may be eligible to submit for reimbursement of a portion of the cost of the mask, contact your FSA benefits administrator.

"Received reimbursement for over payment from hospital. Do I need to return this money to my benefits card?"

Probably. If you paid for the expense to the hospital using your FSA debit-card, the money most likely needs to be returned to the FSA plan. To find out the details you'll need to contact your FSA administrator, whose information can typically be found on the back of your FSA debit-card.

"To get money out of my FSA, do I need to present a paid receipt or just a bill that needs paid?"

First, it's important to note that account holders do not withdraw FSA funds, rather they make direct purchases with an FSA card (similar to a traditional debit card tied to an FSA account), or expenses are paid for with traditional payment methods (cash, check, credit/debit card) and the receipt for the qualifying product/service are submitted to the benefits administrator as a claim for reimbursement. Proof of payment is typically not a required form of documentation from a benefits administrator, but you will want to direct any specific questions to them. For more information on how to use your account and file claims, speak with your FSA benefits administrator!

For everything you need to understand your FSA and spend on qualifying products, rely on FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!

Basics

What happens to Flexible Spending Accounts if an employee is furloughed?

Washington D.C. is in a gridlock. The federal government has been in a partial shutdown for the past two weeks because of a disagreement on a spending bill

You may have heard the term “furlough" mentioned by the media. Furloughed employees are considered “non-essential" workers on indefinite, temporary leave – who are not getting paid while on leave.

So, what happens to a Flexible Spending Account if an employee is furloughed?

According to FSAFeds, any payroll deductions through an FSA are stopped for furloughed employees. Employees will continue to be enrolled in their Health Care FSA, but will not be able to get reimbursed for any claims incurred as long as they have a “non-pay" status. FSAFeds indicates that employees will get reimbursed again once they return to a pay status and allocations will restart. Any missed deductions from paychecks would be made-up or recalculated over remaining pay periods to match a yearly FSA contribution.

Your FSA administrator is the best source for any questions about your individual Flexible Spending Account (balance information, claims details, eligibility and more). FSAstore.com partners with more than 100 FSA administrators. Your FSA administrator might be among our partners; find contact details here. Our FSAstore.com blog will keep you posted on the latest developments.