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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


Eligibility

Product Pick of the Week: Adventure Medical World Travel First Aid Kit

It's fall, and for most of the country, the cool weather and crisp air is the perfect reason to get outdoors before winter takes hold. But climbing, hiking and other outdoors adventures mean it's a good idea to be prepared for anything that comes your way. That's where this week's product pick comes in -- a first-aid kit that has just about anything you might encounter in the great outdoors.

The Adventure Medical World Travel Kit contains the supplies you need when traveling to remote locations where medical assistance may be hours or days away. Recommended for travel to developing nations, international relief work, or adventure travel involving high-risk activities, the Adventure Medical World Travel Kit provides you with a full complement of wound care supplies as well as medications to treat common travel ailments including stomach upset, dehydration, pain, and allergies.

Don't believe us? Check out the contents here.

Kit details

  • Size: 8" x 8.5" x 3.75"
  • Weight: 1 lb 10 oz.
  • Group Size: 1 - 4 People
  • Trip Duration: Multiple Days
Bandage Materials
  • 10 - Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, 1" x 3"
  • 4 - Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, Knuckle
  • 1 - Bandage, Conforming Gauze, 2"
  • 3 - Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 2" x 2", Pkg./2
  • 3 - Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 4" x 4", Pkg./2
  • 2 - Dressing, Non-Adherent, Sterile, 3" x 4"
Bleeding
  • 1 - Gloves, Nitrile (Pair), Hand Wipe
  • 1 - Trauma Pad, 5" x 9"
  • 1 - Orange 2" x 2" Biohazard Label
  • 1 - 5" x 8" Ziplock Baggie
Blister/Burn
  • 1 - GlacierGel (Large Oval)
  • 1 - GlacierGel (Small Rectangular)
  • 1 - Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped (14 pieces)
Instrument
  • 1 - Pencil
  • 3 - Safety Pins
  • 1 - Bandage Scissors with Blunt Tip
  • 1 - Splinter Picker/Tick Remover Forceps
  • 2 - Thermometer, Disposable
  • 1 - 6" x 8" Bag, Plastic
Medical Information
  • 1 - Comp. Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine
  • 1 - Patient Assessment Form
  • 1 - Visual Communication Tool
Medication
  • 4 - Acetaminophen (500 mg), Pkg./2
  • 4 - Antacid, Pkg./2
  • 4 - Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)
  • 2 - Oral Rehydration Salts
  • 2 - Cold Medicine, Medicidin-D, Pkg./2
  • 6 - Diamode (Loperamide HCI 2 mg), Pkg./1
  • 4 - Diotame (Bismuth Subsalicylate), Pkg./2
  • 4 - Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2
Other
  • 2 - Bottle, Plastic, 2oz.
  • 1 - Plastic Vial, Flip-top, Small
Wound Care
  • 6 - Antiseptic Wipe
  • 2 - Cotton Tip Applicator, Pkg./2
  • 1 - Povidone Iodine, 3/4 oz
  • 1 - Syringe, Irrigation, 10 cc, 18 Gauge Tip
  • 1 - Cloth Tape, 1/2" x 10 Yards
  • 2 - Tincture of Benzoin Vials
  • 3 - Triple Antibiotic Ointment, Single Use
  • 1 - Wound Closure Strips, 1/4" x 4", Pkg./10
No matter how you enjoy the outdoors, it's clear that the Adventure Medical World Travel First-Aid Kit needs to be a part of your day pack. With all this included, it's likely all you'll need.
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

Harmless Cigarette Quit Smoking Aid, 30 Day Quit Kit

$34.95

iHealth Air PO3M Pulse Oximeter

$69.95

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.

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

Asked and Answered: Can you explain the OTC prescription requirement?

Since open enrollment is well underway, and we're speaking to a growing group of new FSA owners, it's only right that we revisit one of our most-common questions -- why do we need a prescription to buy over-the-counter (OTC) meds with our FSA cards?

If you've wondered about this, we definitely understand your confusion. Obviously, if you wanted to purchase OTC products like ibuprofen or cold medicine with a standard form of payment, you wouldn't need a script for them. So why would you need to prove a medical need to use tax-free funds? Let's get one thing out of the way, it's a requirement imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and enforced by the IRS.

A quick history lesson

The answer dates back to January 1, 2011 -- a veritable lifetime in consumer healthcare years -- when the government passed PPACA. This law established a new uniform standard for medical expenses, meaning OTC products containing an active medical ingredient of any kind would require a prescription from a doctor.

But the government isn't doing this to make things more difficult, or even to discourage use of tax-free funds. Instead, the initial thinking was that this OTC provision would help raise revenue to expand coverage for uninsured Americans.

So, long story short, if you want to buy these products without having to pay taxes on them, you'll need to verify a qualified medical need for doing so. This includes the items mentioned above, alongside any other pain relievers, cold and allergy remedies, and even cough drops.


Some OTC favorites

Xyzal Allergy 24 HR Tablets, 55 ct

$28.99

Aquaphor Healing Ointment Jar, 14 oz

$21.99


Don't worry!

It's not like the OTC rule applies to everything on our site - just things that contain an active medicinal ingredient. So, medical supplies like crutches, bandages and even diagnostic devices still qualify for FSA reimbursement without any other documentation. In fact, of the 4,000+ eligible items in our store, only a small percentage requires a prescription, so shop with confidence!

And to add to that confidence and create less confusion, we even make it easy for you to decipher which products require a prescription and which do not, with a simple check mark symbol for no prescription required and an Rx symbol for when it is.

Are there changes coming?

There's always hope, but we don't like to think of the OTC provision as "something to work around.". Does it make things slightly more complicated for FSA users? Maybe… but we have our own answer for this -- the Prescription Process.

By using this simple tool, if you purchase eligible OTC medicines at FSAstore.com, you just need to click on the prescription banner to get started. Then, you simply need to provide a physician's name, address and phone number, and our pharmacy partner will reach out directly for the required docs to help you obtain the prescription to complete the purchase. No other work is required.

So, reform might be underway in Washington, but at least you know you have a way to buy these products tax-free, with minimal fuss. Once you start seeing the savings, we think you'll realize it's about as effortless as can be.

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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.

Eligibility

Product Pick of the Week: KT TAPE PRO Precut Strips

The weather outside is starting to get a little frightful. But that doesn't stop athletes and active types from enduring the elements to get outdoors. That's why we recommend KT Tape Pro Precut Strips, which are specifically built to withstand harsh conditions, such as humidity, extreme cold and extended exposure to water.

In other words, the synthetic microfiber tape can be equally beneficial to skaters, hockey players, biathlon participants, or competitors in virtually any other physical activity, indoors or out.

While standard athletic tape has been used for years, FSA-eligible KT Tape Pro is made from a highly flexible, elastic material that not only supports sore joints and muscles, but also lifts the skin to ease pressure on these areas, improving movement while reducing pain.

KT Tape limits your range of motion and constricts muscle movement to promote a speedy recovery. However, due to its ability to adjust and flex around an individual's body, it can give users -- from weekend gardeners to world-class athletes -- more support and agility during physical activity.

Full disclosure: Our staff loves KT Tape products, even for everyday use navigating the streets of New York City. It keeps us pain-free and supported through the harshest conditions, and through including showers, humidity, cold, even dips in the pool.

Each box comes with 20 precut strips of 100% synthetic tape. One hard plastic carrying case with twist on lids to keep your tape in good shape in your gym bag or purse. And the Quick Start Guide with step-by-step instructions will show you how to make the most of KT Tape, on any kind of injury.

More from KT Tape

KT Tape Flex Blue/Black

Specially engineered to provide more effective, comfortable support for weak or injured knees.

$15.99

KT Tape Recovery+ Patch

KT Recovery+™ patches work by microscopically lifting the skin away from the muscle and fascia below which decompresses the area.

$9.99
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.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - Will health care ever use tech to its full potential?

For all the coverage we give to digital health care tools, the truth is the people that use them (your doctors and clinicians) rarely have the time to learn them, much less implement them. While there's no doubt medical professionals see the benefits of digital innovation, adoption simply isn't where it needs to be for it to impact the larger health care community.

Let's see what Employee Benefit News had to say about this.

Getting digital transformation in healthcare on the fast track - Juan Pablo Segura, special to Employee Benefit News

Money and time -- two things that usually get in the way of learning and progress. And health care is no exception. Doctors simply don't have the time to evaluate new tools and processes, when their established workflows aren't necessarily "broken." Not to mention the potential lost time if a tool doesn't pan out the way it's meant to.

And who could blame them? As it stands, most doctors are already seeing fewer patients per day due to increases in administrative responsibilities. They simply can't risk losing revenue due to fewer appointments and potentially expensive tech trials. Because of this, major tech decisions for hospitals and clinics aren't being made by the people that need these tools, and are instead made by administrators who wouldn't be using the tools at all.

Segura paints a compelling argument about how -- before digital innovations are introduced -- physicians need to assess the areas of their job in most need of transformation, and think about change from that perspective. Of course, this also requires time, which means fewer patient appointments per day ... and so the wheel keeps turning.

No matter if its higher patient expenses, or more taxation to cover these needs, this is going to be costly. But we still need to consider how digital innovation could improve cost savings over time. Between better patient outcomes, more-efficient processes and more-accurate testing, the long term results of tech implementation could far outweigh the short-term losses.

Something to consider for the coming year, to be sure.

Hi-tech health for your home

Owlet Smart Sock 2.0 Monitor + Video Bundle

Track your baby's heart rate and oxygen levels while streaming video and audio to your phone.

$399.99

HyperIce Pro Cold Compression Therapy Wrap

$75.00

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, 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

Fridays (with Benefits) - Taking wellness benefits beyond the workplace

Just when we were getting used to writing "employee wellness programs" it looks like things are changing a bit! Now, in an interesting development for the growing marketplace, individual buyers may be able to enroll in wellness benefits through state-run or specialty programs.

These offerings may not be common just yet, but this headline caught our attention. Let's dive in.

Health-Contingent Wellness Programs Enter Individual Marketplace - Kelsey Waddill, Health Payer Intelligence

According to the article, states that choose to participate will allow buyers to enroll in individual wellness benefits programs -- not only to improve health, but also to help lower health care costs. And the states even have some flexibility, with the option to package benefits as cost savings on premiums, or different types of financial incentives.

Of course, there's an approval process determined by each state. But as long as proposed programs meet the same standards as employer-based wellness rewards, there should be no problems with alignment.

For example, if a proposed plan design is based on healthy outcomes, "the desired outcome must be attainable and must have an alternative for those who cannot achieve it for health-related reasons" according to the author.

Additionally, all participating states must restrict their wellness program rewards to 30% of the individual health plan's cost. The only exception is if the wellness program includes tobacco prevention or cessation elements.

And most importantly, proposed wellness benefits can't negatively affect health care coverage to participants.

We're going to keep a close eye on this. While we're unclear how goals-based wellness incentives can efficiently be tracked, we're always happy to see the burgeoning wellness benefits market grow, allowing more people to reap rewards for positive growth. We'll report back if--and when-- these state-run programs expand to more people in more locations.

Wellness necessities

A&D UltraConnect Wireless Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor

Smart Connect automatically detects and syncs measurements between the monitor and the A&DConnect App.

$99.99

Caring Mill™ Bundle

This set features the best Caring Mill products that are perfect for any household or family. There is something for everyone in this bundle!

$185.99

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, 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.

Accounts

Real Money: There's still time to map your FSA spending for the rest of 2019

Didn't 2019 just start last week? January 2020 may be closer than the previous one, but for many of you, FSA spending is still something you're planning for the remainder of the year.

You may have spent more of your FSA funds than you planned to early in the year. But before you start kicking yourself for overspending, you have plenty of time to still budget the remainder of your 2019 -- and use this planning to create a sustainable budget for next year, so you truly make the most of your funds each month.

Re-examine your monthly needs

We're all guilty of it -- starting a year with a budget in mind, then seeing that full allocation of funds and spending it early in the year. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, if that's your game plan. But many FSA users will agree that setting a budget for each month's needs allows these tax-free dollars to go a little further.

If you're interested in making a monthly budget for your FSA funds that can last you throughout the rest of the year, start by creating a list of your monthly necessities, take stock of what items in your home need to be replenished in the future (such as bandages, over-the-counter remedies, etc.), and set limits each month on how much you'll spend.

Need to replenish your cabinets?

Band-Aid Adhesive Bandages

Breathable protection in a variety of sizes that stay in place better.

$4.29

Claritin 24 Hour Non Drowsy Allergy Relief

We make it easy for you to find all of these Rx items in one place.

$23.99


See if there are changes to make

Since it's open enrollment season, also take some time to calculate how much you think you'll spend on qualified medical expenses. Our FSA Calculator can help you estimate your health spending!

The calculation takes into account:

  • Out-of-pocket expenses such as co-pays and deductibles for medical services including routine office visits, specialist office visits, and even hospitalization or acupuncture.
  • Over-the-counter FSA-eligible items and prescriptions.
  • Dental care and vision care.

Visit your doctor

If there's one extra expense you should always factor in, it should be medical appointments -- even basic trips to your primary care doctor to get a full assessment of your current state of health. With a clean bill of health in hand, you'll be able to settle into the winter (and have a much better idea of what your medical spending will amount to over the course of next year, to help your budgeting for the year ahead).

Buy items online as you need them - look for seasonal care, over-the-counter FSA items that you use often, and discover just how many products are FSA-eligible. Note that certain over-the-counter products will require a prescription to be reimbursed under your FSA.

By planning ahead, you'll easily avoid buying products in bulk (or unnecessarily stockpiling) and instead enjoy a variety of items - rather than ending up with multiple pairs of eyeglasses, or unneeded boxes of bandages (which isn't recommended ever, because the IRS frowns upon you buying more of one item than you would need for any given plan year)..

Think beyond prescriptions and standard appointments

Depending on the availability of your preferred physician and your need for prescription drugs, you may have limited ways to spend your FSA dollars. Review the rules of your plan and you may find out that you may be reimbursed for qualifying diagnostic devices and even smoking cessation and weight loss programs when needed to treat a diagnosed medical condition and prescribed by your doctor, chiropractor medical services, and many other types of expenses.

Even if you're healthy as a horse, don't forget to plan for the unexpected during these last few months of 2019. When putting together your budget, be sure to still leave about 10-20% of your funds aside to cover unexpected medical expenditures.

Whether this is for the cost of medication, an emergency room visit, or a trip to a specialist, this will give you additional breathing room to put toward major medical needs with your tax-free funds.

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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

Asked and Answered: Why can’t I use my FSA to pay for insurance premiums?

In running the FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com Learning Centers, there are some questions that always seem to pop up. And the subject of using flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to cover health insurance premiums is one of the most-common questions we get.

So, since open enrollment is about to kick off, and we probably have a whole new group of future FSA owners checking out the site, let's revisit this topic, to see if we can clear the air a little.

First, a quick overview of premiums

Premiums are amounts paid to an insurance company to cover the cost of coverage. Their value is heavily based on factors like:

  • Type of coverage
  • Likelihood of a claim being made
  • Where the policyholder lives or operates a business
  • Inherent risk of health problems or behavior
  • Competition with other insurance companies.

In short, premiums are an insurance company's way to cover any liabilities that come with the plans they underwrite. State insurance regulators work to make sure companies have enough reserves to cover any claims, to ensure that medical expenses are covered. Premiums can fluctuate after each policy period, based on a number of cost factors.

For policyholders to continue receiving coverage through their insurance plans, premiums must be paid according to the policy's payment plan schedule. It's left up to policyholders to decide where the funds should come from. And unfortunately, the IRS doesn't allow for those funds to come from your FSA.

But don't take our word for it - instead, review IRS code 213(d), which states the following about FSA spending:

"...medical care includes amounts paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body."

In other words, health insurance premiums fall outside of this definition, since they pay for coverage, but aren't directly connected to the actual care.

Are premiums ever covered by health care accounts?

FSA holders can't count insurance premiums as eligible expenses, but health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) offer slightly more options.

In a small number of exceptions an HSA can cover long term care, or premiums for spouses and qualified dependents when the account holder is receiving health care continuation benefits (COBRA) or federal/state unemployment compensation. But, for the most part, they won't cover premiums. HRA coverage of premiums is even more complex, so don't count on it.

TL;DR?

If you have an FSA you can't use these tax-free funds on premiums. But don't let that be a deal breaker. Your FSA covers thousands of FSA-eligible items, alongside other vital out-of-pocket expenses like copayments, deductibles, over-the-counter items, and more.

Top sellers!

KT Tape Performance+™ Blister Prevention Tape

Designed to help prevent athlete-related abrasion injuries, such as blisters, chafing, and hot spots.

dpl® Oral Care Light Therapy System

Used for the treatment of muscle and joint aches, painful gums, sprains, back pain and the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

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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

Fridays (with Benefits) - More than half of workers are taking this risk

The cost of health care is a problem. But it's not just a physical one. And according to this week's article, people aren't considering the role medical expenses play in a person's overall financial wellness. In fact, going by one survey from 2018, managing health care costs ranked below all other expense types on the questionnaire.

Here's How 53% of Workers Are Putting Their Health at Risk - Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool

This is some disheartening news from Bank of America's 2019 Workplace Benefits Report which indicated that up to 53% of workers have have skipped or postponed necessary treatments to avoid having to pay for them. Treatments like the following:

  • Medical appointments - 32%
  • Medical test/procedures - 21%
  • Purchase of medications - 14%
  • Hospital visits or stays - 10%
  • Skipped health insurance - 7%
  • Purchase of supplies - 4%

And even worse, current health care expenses aren't workers' only concern. In retirement, Medicare may only cover up to 65% of certain employee medical costs, increasing the burden of health care premiums and out-of-pocket costs -- all of which can add up quickly, potentially destroying a retirement savings account.

What's worse, many employees are passing on tax-free health benefits like FSAs and HSAs, which could considerably lower the financial burden that basic medical expenses bring about each year. While nearly 90% of companies offer these accounts, not nearly enough employees are taking advantage of them. And without these protections in place, their focus is on saving money, which means their general health is suffering as a result.

Let's just take a stand here: if you don't take stock of your health through preventive care, there's a good chance you'll pay more down the line when your health becomes more of an everyday concern as the result of aging. That's why FSAs and HSAs are such great options for those looking to save money on health care - you can turn those yearly tax savings into a reinvestment into your overall health by being able to cover those preventive screenings like yearly physicals, eye tests, blood screenings and more.

So keep that doctor appointment you have on the calendar, you may just help save yourself thousands down the road.

Save on essentials!

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Help identify pre-diabetes or determine how well a person's diabetes is being controlled following diagnosis.

Accutrend Plus Cholesterol Meter

The new Accutrend Plus system is a flexible handheld device ideal for professional use in non-hospital settings.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, 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.