Every year, as we approach open enrollment (and it's we receive a lot of the same questions. And discussing the letter of medical necessity (LMN) is always at the top of the list. So, since this a column about the basics of flexible spending account use, we're happy to cover it again. Because it's important, and can impact how you shop for FSA-eligible products and services.
If you've spent some time looking through our Eligibility List, you probably noticed a classification of qualifying medical products and services as "requiring a letter of medical necessity."
In short, an LMN is like a doctor's note. Having an LMN can help any product or service that falls outside the IRS's definition of "medical care" (but can assist the treatment of a condition) get approved for FSA reimbursement.
Defining "medical care"
For a product or service to be FSA-eligible, it must treat, cure, diagnose or prevent a disease or illness. Or it has to affect a function of the body. So a product like a first-aid kit is a no-brainer, as it can be used in a huge variety of medical situations.
However, there are many treatment methods and products available that fall outside IRS guidelines that could be made eligible with some additional documentation from your doctor.
Here's an example: If your doctor suggests massage therapy to treat an injury, it's not FSA-eligible on its own. However, if you get an LMN from your doctor that outlines how the treatment method is essential to your recovery, your benefits administrator may accept it as an FSA-eligible expense.
How to submit a letter of medical necessity
If you and your doctor have identified a medical product or service that can aid the treatment of an injury or medical condition and it falls outside FSA eligibility, here's what you need to do:
- Check with your benefits administrator to see if there is an official form to fill out for the expense to be approved.
- If your doctor is writing a letter on his/her own, the letter must outline: what medical condition is being treated, a description of the treatment (frequency, dosage), and how long the expense will be needed to treat the condition.
- A receipt or invoice must be submitted with the LMN for the full price to be reimbursed.
In some cases, benefits administrators may ask for additional information from your doctor, most likely for products/services that also have non-medical uses.
Beyond its direct medical use, most expenses are non-reimbursable if the individual would have purchased it anyway. In other words, this product can't be something you would purchase even if you didn't have the condition. It needs to be directly related to this course of treatment, and the specific use needs to be confirmed by a doctor.
One example is yoga. If you're already paying for yoga classes unrelated to a medical condition, your payments are not FSA-eligible, and these costs won't be covered retroactively. But if a physician recommends yoga to help a specific condition, they might submit an LMN on your behalf, to allow you to use tax-free funds to cover the costs of classes for a set period of time, until the doctor determines your treatment is complete.
With any luck, you shouldn't have any difficulties getting reimbursed for your expense as long as you keep an open line of communication with your benefits administrator and ensure that your physician is as detailed as possible.
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.
Whether you've begun fitness training or just getting back into the gym after a long hiatus, you may have noticed the colorful tape worn by professional and amateur athletes alike popping up all over the place. But it's not a fashion statement - it's kinesiology tape! Let's dive in to find out how this FSA eligible item works and how it can treat common pain conditions.
What is kinesiology?
Kinesiology has become an increasingly popular field of complementary health or natural medicine that refers to the study of the body's mechanics of biomechanical, physiological and psychological mechanisms of movement. One of the fundamental premises of kinesiology is that the body has innate healing energy and is always in the state of active healing, but in certain cases, the mechanics of body positioning and adjustments can promote this healing process further.
A "kinesiologist" is not currently a licensed professional designation in the U.S., but those with training in this area typically have specialties in the fields of physical rehabilitation, human motor performance and ergonomics. Ultimately, the vast majority of individuals who consider themselves as kinesiologists are those who are specialists in "exercise physiology," or the study of physiological responses to physical exercise and the rehabilitative efforts to help the body achieve peak performance.
What is kinesiology tape?
One of the most common kinesiology products is kinesiology tape, which is designed to aid the healing process of sore muscles and joints by providing support and stability to these areas without restricting the patient's range of motion. According to KinesioTaping.com, through the use of soft tissue manipulation, experts can utilize kinesiology tape in specific taping techniques to allow muscles and ligaments to be stabilized to prevent further damage or re-injury. This strategy has become increasingly popular in the treatment of pain, rehabilitation, stabilization before athletic competition and much more.
Kinesiology taping falls under a wide umbrella of proven physiotherapy techniques, including joint mobilization/manipulation, minimal energy techniques (METs), muscle stretching, neurodynamics and soft tissue rehabilitation. Before working with kinesiology tape, seek out the assistance of a personal trainer or physiologist to ensure that you are using the tape correctly to treat a specific pain or muscle issue, suggests Mayo Clinic.
If you're interested in learning more about kinesiology taping, KT Tape™ is a good place to start! KT Tape™ is one of the most popular kinesiology tapes on the market, and the company has a huge range of instructional videos on their YouTube channel to help you learn more about kinesiology taping and gain the skills necessary to apply the tape on your own. To browse our selection of kinesiology tapes and thousands of other FSA eligible products, be sure to visit FSAstore.com!
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If you have been advised to see a physical therapist and you're enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA), you may be surprised by how much your FSA can help cover your treatment plan.
Preliminary Screenings, Checkups, Treatment
If you decide to visit a physical therapist, any costs associated with pre-screenings, as well as future consultations and treatment, will be fully covered by an FSA. Whether you are at risk of developing a movement dysfunction later in life or have begun to experience chronic pain issues associated with a recent injury or repeated strain on a certain part of the body, your FSA will give you additional freedom to seek out the advice of a qualified physical therapist to begin a treatment plan.
Quite possibly one of the most important roles of a physical therapist is to help patients recover from major surgeries. Most commonly, orthopedic surgeries on the hip, knee, shoulder, ankle, spine and other pivotal areas will require physical therapy. These will help patients reach an optimal state of health and mobility. Because physical therapy is so intertwined with post-surgery treatment, it is eligible for FSA reimbursement as long as the treatment plan lasts.
Physical Therapy Products
In addition to the many services that physical therapists perform for their patients, physical therapy products on the market that can help individuals continue their recovery regimen at home. Some of the most common physical therapy products are eligible with an FSA. TENS machines and other electrotherapy machines/pads, heat/cold packs and pads, conductive garments/pads, neck traction units, orthopedic aids and more can help. If you are curious about the FSA eligibility of a specific product or service, feel free to check out the FSA Eligibility List, the most comprehensive FSA resource on the web!
If you have an FSA, HSA or HRA and want to learn more about your account, shop the web's largest selection of FSA/HSA/HRA eligible items and always stay on top of the latest news with FSAstore.com!
Recover with FSA eligible products
Each October, the American Physical Therapy Association kicks off its celebration of National Physical Therapy Month to recognize the great work of physical therapists and their assistants who transform society by restoring and improving motion in people’s lives. As important as the many services that physical therapists provide, the onus is on their patients to take what they have learned and continue to perform exercises, stretches and other forms of therapy at home to speed the recovery process.
Luckily, if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), there’s a huge range of physical therapist-approved products that could provide a major boost to your rehabilitative process, no matter what the injury.
Here are a few items that you may not have known that your benefit covers:
1. TENS Therapy
TENS therapy, which stands for transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation, has been used byphysical therapists for decades as a means of pain relief.Learn more aboutTENS therapy.
- This system uses low-voltage electricalcurrent that travels along nerve fibers that can scramble pain signals being sent to the brain, andcan even stimulate the production of endorphins to block pain in joints and muscles. Be sure tocheck with your physical therapist to determine the appropriate settings for the issue beforeincorporating it into your regimen.
2. Knee/Ankle/Wrist Braces
Alongside traditional pain relief medications like aspirin, braces may be the most effectivemeans of joint pain management in the world of physical therapy. Whether you haveexperiences issues with your wrist, ankle or knee in the past, braces can provide stability to aswollen, unstable or painful joint, which can speed the recovery process and dramatically limitthe chances of re-aggravating the injury.
Check out: ACE Ankle Brace with Side Stabilizers
3. Kinesiology Tape
Athletic taping has been a fixture in treating sports injuries for decades, and it is one of the mostimportant skills that any physical therapist will learn the training process. Kinesiology tape takesthis idea one step further by providing support and stability to your joints and muscles withoutaffecting circulation or range of motion. This method is typically used by athletes who needto treat minor and chronic injuries to get back in the game or training regimen as quickly aspossible.
If you’re one of the millions of people receiving physical therapy during National Physical TherapyMonth, be sure to talk with your specialist about the many rehabilitative products your FSA covers! Youcan find them all and many more FSA eligible products at FSAstore.com, which offer’s the web’s biggestselection of qualifying products!