At first glance, vitamins and supplements seem like natural candidates for FSA- and HSA eligibility. They are designed to fill "gaps" in the average diet, and maybe offset minor nutritional deficiencies along the way -- yes, even those related to larger health problems.
But the IRS -- which governs FSA- and HSA-eligibility -- disagrees, while continuing to cite IRS 213(d), which states all FSA-eligible expenses must conform to the following standard:
"The diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body."
And this is where the arguments start. Arguments such as...
"My vitamins are necessary! Why am I being punished?"
Vitamins are perhaps the most-glaring example of a product that can either be necessary or "dual-purpose." Daily multivitamins are used to promote better health and well-being, but because there's no specific health need or condition that is helped by using multivitamins, they fall outside the accepted qualifications for FSA- and HSA- eligibility.
Is there a medical basis for needing a multivitamin? Sure - it's for your health, after all. But promoting general well-being and treating a specific condition are two very different things in the eyes of the IRS.
In the past, we've used toothbrushes and floss as a good comparison point for the vitamin debate, and it still holds up. Though we all know proper dental cleaning is necessary for all-around health and wellness, using a toothbrush and floss has not been identified as having a direct role in treating or solving the specific medical condition.
"My vitamins are eligible? How did that happen?"
Though multivitamins are likely the most-popular OTC supplement, only a handful of targeted vitamins have achieved FSA- and HSA-eligibility, provided the patients have documentation from their doctors claiming the need.
I think we can all agree prenatal vitamins meet the IRS requirements for eligibility, since they have shown to prevent birth defects and boost fetal development in ways that most modern diets can't quite seem to achieve.
Likewise, glucosamine/chondroitin supplements are extremely popular at FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com because of their proven benefits for treating arthritis.
Because the above exceptions have proven value in treating specific needs and conditions, they can be purchased with tax-free health dollars, and without any written approvals from physicians. However…
"Is there any chance they'll make an exception?"
We obviously can't answer that here. But as many Americans know, working with the IRS is not nearly the nightmare people used to claim. And if a doctor determines your body needs a specific vitamin supplement -- even if it falls outside of regular FSA or HSA parameters -- then a Letter of Medical Necessity might do the trick.
Chances are, the letter will need to be detailed in explaining why these specific products will benefit you, and how long the expected use will be (such as the duration of specific treatment). It's not a guarantee by any means, but a well-presented case made to your benefits administrator can go a long way toward getting the supplements you need, on a tax-free basis.
Keep mom and baby happy and healthy with daily prenatal vitamins for pregnant and nursing mothers.
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. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Were you aware that prenatal vitamins are covered by a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)? Do you know what to look for when shopping for prenatal vitamins?
Were you aware that prenatal vitamins are covered by a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)? This month marks two important health initiatives that have amajor impact for women who are planning to become mothers in the coming year. National Birth Defects Prevention Month and National Folic Acid Month shed light on one of the most important supplements a new mom can take for the health of her child: prenatal vitamins!
While expecting moms are encouraged to eat a healthy diet to support the health of their growing child, their diets may be missing key nutrients that can play a major role in preventing birth defects and supporting the optimal development of their children.
What are the most important ingredients to look for in prenatal vitamins? Let's find out!
Folic Acid: This nutrient has been proven to prevent neural tube defects, which are serious abnormalities in the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid is the natural form of the vitamin, while folic acid is the synthetic derivative that is added to foods as required by federal law. Folate is found naturally in many foods, including asparagus, okra, leafy vegetables, beans, yeast and mushrooms. It's recommended that any woman who could get pregnant should take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily, starting before conception and continuing through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Iron: This mineral is pivotal in the baby's growth and development, as well as preventing the development of anemia, which results in a lack of healthy red blood cells in the body. Iron is a staple in many prenatal vitamin brands, and can be found in a number of natural sources including leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, etc), dried fruit like raisins and apricots, seafood, beans and more. Aim for at least 27 mg of iron each day during pregnancy.
Iodine: This nutrient assists in the mother's thyroid function and metabolism during pregnancy, and can be found in cranberries and organic foods like yogurt, raw cheese and organic potatoes. Iodine also contributes to the baby's brain and nervous system development, and a lack of iodine during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm delivery. Pregnant women should aim for 220 mcg of iodine per day, while breastfeeding woman should up that to 290 mcg.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These acids have been known to support healthy brain and vision development in infants, and they are most often found in fatty fish, eggs and peanut butter. These substances have been found to prevent pre-term labor and delivery and may increase birth weights. The two most beneficial omega-3s are EHA and DHA, and DHA is especially important for the brain, eyes and central nervous system. As such, pregnant/lactating women are advised to take at least 300 mg of DHA each day.
Calcium: This nutrient plays a pivotal role in the development of healthy bones and teeth, the heart, nerves and muscles. It is recommended that women should receive 1,000 mg of calcium per day before, during and after pregnancy, and they should supplement their diet with calcium-rich foods like dairy products, sardines, soybeans and fortified juices/cereals/grains.
The preceding ingredients are a must for any prenatal vitamin regimen, but expecting mothers should also read labels and compare products to ensure they are receiving the proper levels of vital nutrients. Other important prenatal vitamins/minerals to look for are vitamin A/B12/C/DE, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, zinc and copper.
If you have a bundle of joy on the way, make sure you give your child the best start possible with prenatal vitamins purchased at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA eligible products to support the health and wellness of you and your loved ones.
Vitafusion PreNatal Gummy Vitamins
Easy on the stomach and provide expectant mothers a multi-vitamin formula.
Rainbow Light Prenatal One™ Multivitamin
A holistic, whole body formulation that provides potencies of essential nutrients.
First and foremost, congratulations on the big news! With a bundle of joy on the way, it may feel like you have an endless list of concerns before the baby arrives, but ensuring proper nutrition throughout your pregnancy should be your primary concern.
Doctors advise mothers-to-be to take prenatal vitamins throughout their pregnancies to fill any nutritional gaps in their diets that can prevent birth defects, low birth weight and other complications.
Even if you have an optimal diet, think of prenatal vitamins as an insurance policy to cover nutrients that are essential to a baby's development.
Best of all, if you or your spouse have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), prenatal vitamins are FSA-eligible! Check out FSAstore.com to shop for thousands of qualifying 2014 FSA eligible items to foster the health and well-being of your growing family.
Don't know where to begin? Seek out the following nutrients when you decide to purchase prenatal vitamins for the first time.
- This nutrient is found in leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans and citrus fruits, and the FDA also requires flour products, such as breads, buns and bagels, must be fortified with extra folic acid. This ingredient is extremely important to prevent neural tube defects, which refers to a spine that is not fully developed. Because these defects can begin to develop just 28 days after conception, it's vital that mothers-to-be begin taking prenatal vitamins in the early stages of pregnancy.
- Iron should be an essential nutrient in any mother-to-be's diet, as it assists both the mother and child's blood's ability to carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency is the chief cause of anemia, and can also lead to low birth weights, preterm delivery and infant mortality. In addition to vitamin supplements, iron is found in red meat, spinach and collard greens, egg yolks, beans and artichokes. Additionally, increased vitamin C consumption can help your body better absorb the iron in the foods you ingest.
- Bone density is a major concern for mothers, as the fetus will utilize this mineral to contribute to bone growth. As a result, expecting mothers should aim to improve their calcium intake during pregnancy to ensure the health and well-being of their baby, as well as helping to avoid bone density issues like osteoporosis later in life. Calcium is found in dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese, as well as soybeans, sardines, spinach, kale, turnips and collard greens.
- As one of the nutrients responsible for the production, repair and functioning of DNA, as well as the formation of healthy cells, zinc is an extremely important mineral to look for when shopping for prenatal vitamins. Zinc supports proper immune system function and while zinc deficiencies are rare, they can result in low birth weights, miscarriage and other complications. Foods that are high in zinc include spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews and white mushrooms.
- Last but not least, the importance of regular vitamin D intake during pregnancy has gained steam in recent years, as many studies point to the fact that the nutrient can prevent immune system disorders and other diseases. While the body produces this vitamin naturally from the absorption of sunlight, it can also be found in fortified milk products, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna, as well as eggs, mushrooms and oysters.