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Published on October 29, 2018

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Don’t Forget To Use Your Flex Dollars

With just a few months left in 2018, here’s one thing to move to the top of your to-do list: Make use of your flexible spending account (FSA) money.

Otherwise you’ll lose it when we turn the page and the calendar reads 2019.

“Most people do put their FSA funds to use, but we do see a few people who miss out on a few hundred here or there,” said Elizabeth Slack, the FSA Manager with Avera Health Plans and DAKOTACARE. Slack also manages health savings accounts (HSA) for both insurance companies and explained the key difference between the two types.

“HSA funds, which can be used for health expenses or retirement savings, roll over year-to-year. They offer incentives for tax deductions, but you must enroll in a high-deductible health plan to have a health saving account. Flex spending is, generally speaking, use-or-lose money,” she said. “HSA programs are something we hope to share with more people in the future. But we will soon be sending out notifications to our customers to give them a balance on their flex spending and remind them it needs to be used.”

Where to Get Answers

While a number of websites and other resources provide insight on what’s eligible for FSA spending, Slack said there can be some exceptions and methods to make the most of your money.

“One thing that people assume would always be covered, but is not, is over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medications,” she said. “But if you buy those as part of a treatment plan from your health care provider and obtain a prescription. Then they may fit the flex-spending guidelines.”

Letters of medical necessity from a health care provider allow expenses such as baby formula to fit flex spending. Talk to your doctor is one way to find methods to spend the money you have in your account before the deadline.

“Some forms of counseling also fall into eligibility, and some treatments such as acupuncture can as well, even if your health insurance coverage does not pay for them,” Slack said. “You can always call our service center to get more information and review the listed items on our site, too.”

Good Considerations For Year’s End

Insured individuals who have adult children on their health insurance can use flex funds to cover costs of medical necessities for them, even if they are no longer claimed on income tax. Slack often suggests this to those who have surplus flex spending.

“Some people will stock up on CPAP supplies this time of year as well, as they can be expensive and fit under the eligibility guidelines,” she said. “Contacts, glasses and hearing aid batteries are items people may overlook. Blood-pressure machines are another useful device, and a popular choice for many people is the purchase of a humidifier.”

Using the money for medical mileage is another possible approach that people may overlook.

“In 2018, the reimbursement is 18 cents per mile, and people do forget they can claim this cost and get reimbursed right away, rather than waiting to deduct it on their annual income tax return. You can do one or the other, but not both,” she said. “If you have mileage you were planning on deducting on your taxes, but end up with unexpected flex funds you need to spend, this is just another great way to use them. You’re really only hurting yourself if don’t at least try to use up any remaining funds – it’s worth checking your FSA balance before the year ends.”

Complete guidelines for other flex-spending ideas are easily available and can help make sure you maximize your coverage.

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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