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Living Well

FSA Friday - 8/31/18 - First aid innovation for an evolving customer base

Companies that sell first aid products are developing newer and better products to use for everyday injuries. But, don't give all the credit to the suppliers -- the reason behind these innovations lies with the consumer. In this case, baby boomers.

First aid innovations spur category sales - Nora Caley, Drug Store News

First aid tape, bandages, gauze and cotton alone nearly hit the $900 million mark in sales this past year. There have been a lot of accidents. And there's a reason for that.

The overall population of the United States is getting older, which is leading to a larger number of consumers shopping in the first aid and wound management world, says Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages marketing director Jeffrey Thompson.

In the article, the author breaks down how the current population is having an increased number of accidents, ranging from minor cuts and scrapes to larger wounds from falls. In other words, baby boomers are growing up.

With baby boomers accounting for the largest living generation, there is a higher demand for these types of products. This, along with the upward shift towards seniors living more active lifestyles, is causing the first aid business to evolve.

This means companies are making newer products, and giving the average, "run-of-the-mill" first aid products a revamp to better suit consumer needs. And this is all due to a change in consumer trends.

The current market is searching for the best ways to heal themselves with the most-effective products. These range from adding natural supplements (like honey) to regular products to shorten healing time and better treat wounds, to creating entire new lines of infection defense for those who might have weaker immune systems.

On top of all this, it's no secret that as you age, new health problems can arise. Within the boomer population, there's a significant increase of individuals with diabetes. And keeping up with those medical costs can be especially straining to individuals looking towards retirement, as many of boomers are currently trying to do. This is leading to an increased number of available over-the-counter treatments that are more cost-efficient.

Plus, hospital and insurance costs continue to rise. This is further pushing the population towards forms of self-treatment, which is again where innovative, more-effective first aid products come into play.

FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. 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, YouTube and Twitter.

Laws and Legislation

FSA Friday - 7/20/18 - The end of "use-it-or-lose-it?" What new legislation might do for your FSA

Like we reported yesterday, the House Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of a series of bills that would implement some major changes to consumer-directed healthcare plans, including flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs).

While these changes are nowhere near the finish line, this legislation has our attention. Here's a recap to catch you up on a very big week in flex spending news.

ICYMI: Committee Passes Legislation to Increase Health Care Choice for Americans - U.S. House Ways & Means Committee

"Choice" was a commonly used word on Capitol Hill this week. Under current IRS guidance, a health FSA can provide for a rollover of unused balances of $500 or less into the following year. But, if this legislation passes, all unused balances in a health FSA can be carried forward to the following year.

Meaning, it could be the end of "use-it-or-lose-it" requirements. If passed, all FSA balances would be able to be carried over into the following fiscal year, allowing FSA holders to hold onto any unused funds to be used in the following year.

These changes could give FSA holders a lot more freedom to save and spend what they want, without rushing to meet deadlines.

Employers Back Latest Health Care Bills - Stephen Miller, SHRM

You might soon be able to say goodbye to needing a prescription to get reimbursed for some common over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. A major proposed change that could affect your FSA lies in H.R. 6199, the Restoring Access to Medication Act, which would make all OTC drugs eligible for purchase with your FSA dollars while no longer requiring an Rx!

In this specific bill, it outlines feminine care products also being included in OTC products eligible for reimbursement, which would put an end to the heavily debated feminine care product reimbursement restrictions put in place by the IRS.

Overall, the author supports the proposed changes to consumer-directed health plans, claiming that these changes would boost consumerism and enhance coverage for the public.

Again, we're a long way from these bills being made into law. But they could bring major changes to the way your FSA functions. Of course, we're expecting just as many changes to be made to the bills before anything becomes final, but it's important to stay in the know so you can decide how to best use your FSA.

FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. 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, YouTube and Twitter.

Eligibility

FSA Friday - 7/6/18 - The ongoing debate of menstrual equity

After purchasing menstrual hygiene products for his female employees and visitors, U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney submitted his receipts for reimbursement to the finance office of the Committee on House Administration, only to be denied the $37 he spent.

This Congressman Is Fighting To Bring Free Tampons To The Hill - Eleanor Goldberg, HuffPost

According to the article, the reason for the denial is that tampons and sanitary napkins, alongside other feminine products, fall under the label of "personal care items," and are not deemed "necessary."

Though Rep. Maloney wasn't trying for FSA reimbursement, stories like this lend themselves to an ongoing question around IRS determinations about using tax-free funds for feminine hygiene products.

Currently, as defined by the IRS, FSA-eligible medical expenses are "the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and the costs for treatments affecting any part or function of the body." Feminine hygiene products currently don't fall under any of these categories, and aren't eligible.

This is because a regular menstrual cycle indicates a normal, healthy function of the body, meaning the IRS doesn't see hygiene products as a "treatment."

But there's growing disagreement in Washington about the subject. Last year, U.S. Representative Grace Meng introduced the Menstrual Equity Act for All of 2017, which would expand reimbursement to include menstrual hygiene products and allow a $120 tax credit for certain individuals using them.

The act is currently in the introduction phase, and would need approval by the House and Senate if it were to have a chance at becoming law.

The debate goes back even further. In 2015, Rep. Meng also introduced the Fund Essential Menstruation Products (FEM) Act -- an act that could have potentially changed the FSA eligibility of feminine products. Its goal was to reclassify tampons and other products as necessary to promote optimal health and prevent potential health problems -- something that sits at the core of the eligibility complaints we encounter each day.

Even with all these actions, these products aren't covered. And until change happens, we'll probably see more of these headlines every year. In the future, there may be healthcare advances that could make feminine hygiene products obsolete. But for now, there's a much better chance these acts and efforts can start gaining traction on Capitol Hill.

FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. 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, YouTube and Twitter.

Accounts

FSA Friday - 6/22/18 - The continuing evolution of employee benefits

In last week's FSA Friday we talked about healthcare convenience, and a bigger focus on digital tools to improve patient experiences. In short, healthcare companies are either going digital, or "going home." But, as we learned, these efforts were aimed at improving the human experience.

This week, we continue the discussion, highlighting two articles that reinforce why digital is very much the industry's future. But they also point out that the human factor will always be paramount when helping patients manage their healthcare.

What's new in employee benefits? Health advocacy programs - Teri Dreher, Daily Herald

Employers love health advocacy services. If you're not familiar with these programs, they're pretty much what they sound like -- consultants hired to help guide employees through medical processes while making them more educated healthcare consumers.

Some of these services include:

  • Answering questions on healthcare services
  • Researching healthcare providers that fit employee needs
  • Coordinating care between doctor and patient
  • Helping with mental health
  • Educating on healthcare with presentations

For employees, this means a more accessible approach to healthcare. Foreign concepts and tricky medical jargon become easy to navigate with employer-provided healthcare advocates. At the same time, employees can learn more about properly using their insurance and what doctors will work best for them.

Benefits product roundup: HR app, HSA calculator, PBM auditing - Caroline Marwitz, BenefitsPro

We're no strangers to the latest in healthcare technology. But we were impressed by some of the benefits-focused products highlighted in this BenefitsPro article. For example, DialCare's direct-to-consumer telemedicine plan, which companies can customize for specific employee needs.

Among the other tools highlighted in this article are around-the-clock healthcare advocates (if your company doesn't provide these already), phone access to registered nurses, online access to pharmacies and more.

(Impressive, for sure. But we're still partial to our very own FSA calculator.)

Improvements in these programs and keeping employees healthy shows the effects employee healthcare and overall employee health can have on a company. Whether it's saving employers money or boosting company morale, employers should strongly consider having people-focused, wellness-driven programs and services in place.

FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the 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, YouTube and Twitter.

Living Well

FSA Friday - 6/15/18 - New healthcare tech developments

These days, it seems like everything needs to be faster-- restaurant service, internet speeds, your daily commute. This need for immediacy is everywhere, including how you get your medications. But is it for the best?

In this week's FSA Friday, we look at a pair of articles from Drug Store News, which illustrate two different ways technology might affect the way we get our prescription medications, and what we might need to watch for as these developments become realities.

E-prescribing bill clears Senate panel - Drug Store News

The Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act is one step closer to coming into effect.

This bill entails having all schedule II-IV controlled substances covered under Medicare Part D -- pharmaceuticals considered to have a high potential for abuse -- be prescribed electronically, to help eliminate fraudulent access to these drugs.

Backed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the act has cleared the Senate Finance Committee. And it represents the latest in a series of nationwide efforts to tackle the opioid epidemic, which many believe to be linked to easy accessibility.

It appears this development comes at an appropriate time, since we're seeing more and more changes to speed up your time getting your prescriptions. As we see in the next article, prevention against fraudulent purchase of prescription drugs might be a bigger concern.

Express Scripts, MedAvail pilot Rx kiosks - David Salazar, Drug Store News

For the last few years mobile apps have made refilling a one-click process. In this article we see how companies plan to expand this convenience even further. Pharmacy kiosks are basically the RedBox of the healthcare world, except instead of DVDs, you get your prescription medications filled in less than two minutes!

This service will make its debut in Arizona this year, with MedAvail's MedCenter self-service pharmacy kiosks. They will offer 24/7 access to prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, allowing users to fulfill both electronic and handwritten prescriptions. Once verified, they'll dispense medications in less than 90 seconds. Yes...that fast.

The success of these kiosks will come down to accountability. Is removing qualified pharmacists from the equation a positive step toward automated drug stores? Or will it lead to potential concerns about misuse of these technologies?

We're sure these topics are being discussed, and protections will be put in place. But there's likely a lot of testing and troubleshooting left before these advancements become the norm for pharmaceuticals.

Of course, we can't help but also wonder how great an FSA-eligible kiosk would be, complete with 100% guaranteed eligible products available at the push of a button and a swipe of your FSA card. Maybe that's a few years away, but at least we already have the next best thing.

FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the 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, YouTube and Twitter.

Basics
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

FSA Friday - 6/8/18 - Digital healthcare shifts are really focused on people

It's probably an understatement to say the healthcare world is "going digital." Providers are no exception, though this goes beyond shiny apps and impressive websites. By adapting to tech trends, companies are putting focus on pleasing patients and keeping up with younger consumers. This includes an influx of digital advertising and marketing, and improvements in customer service to better engage people with their brands.

In this week's FSA Friday, we take a look at two recent headlines that highlight how digital currently factors into the healthcare landscape, and why it's important for patients.

Pharma and healthcare boost digital ad spend on the way to $4.5B in 2021 - Beth Snyder Bulik, FiercePharma

According to eMarketer's update on annual spending and forecast for the future, pharma and healthcare spent a whopping $2.53 billion on digital advertising in 2017 -- and that number is only expected to rise over the next few years.

That's not really surprising -- everything seems to be digital-focused today. But what is surprising is that they're not doing it to get ahead of the curve, but rather to keep up with the rest of the world. Pharma and healthcare accounts for about 3% of total digital media spending. That's pretty small compared to consumer categories like retail, automotive and financial, which each account for double-digit percentages.

But this sudden push into digital doesn't stop at advertising. It's just part of a bigger campaign to enhance and improve customer experiences, as we see in the next article.

The big driver of healthcare investment in tech isn't Silicon Valley; It's the patient - Alison Kanski, MM&M

It may seem that technology is the main influencer in the healthcare world, but actually, it's only because the public wants it that way. Patients are more in control of their spending, saving and planning than ever before, and want to make their healthcare experiences more like the rest of their daily lives. This means healthcare needs to provide innovation, connectivity and ease of use in their apps, web experiences and customer service interactions.

Corporations like Google and Amazon are partnering with healthcare companies to bridge this gap in the market by empowering patients with efficient, clearly laid out customer experiences that reflect what they want in every digital interaction.

This increased focus on patient experience reflects how consumers are proving to be more in control of their healthcare budgeting, saving and spending. And consumer-directed healthcare accounts like FSAs and HSAs fit into this approach, giving a more-connected, more-aware audience better ways to save money now, and for the future.

FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the 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.