If you’re among the more than 32 million Americans who have a health care flexible spending account, or FSA, it’s time to use it or lose it. Most FSA dollars must be used within the calendar year or they are lost.
“People are losing funds. We estimate $1 billion is forfeited in FSA dollars every year,” says Rachel Rouleau, chief compliance officer at Health-E Commerce, which runs FSAStore.com.
The good news is that there are lots of things you can spend your FSA dollars on. Moreover, shopping for FSA-eligible products is easier than ever. Most large retailers — including Walmart, Amazon, CVS and Target — have an inventory system in place that automatically identifies items as eligible expenses once you swipe or input your FSA card details, says Nicky Brown, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at HealthEquity, a health savings account administrator. Websites like FSAstore.com sell FSA-eligible products, grouping them in categories based on the disease or ailment. “Hundreds of merchants have these inventory systems in place to make it easy,” Brown says.
FSA dollars can be spent on many things, including the following:
1. Doctors and medicine. If you need to see your doctor or a specialist and can get an appointment, FSA dollars can be used to cover any copayments and medicine prescribed to you. You can even use the money for previous out-of-pocket expenses. “The most common thing people can do is submit any outstanding eligible medical expenses like doctors, dentists, copays or coinsurance,” Rouleau says. “It also qualifies for dependents, which includes children through the age of 26.”
2. Travel costs for medical care. Transportation costs — whether to get to and from essential doctor’s appointments or medical care — can be paid with FSA money. That includes gas, parking and tolls, as well as bus, taxi and train fares.
3. Over-the-counter hearing aids. This summer the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) gave the green light for consumers with mild-to-moderate hearing impairment to buy hearing aids directly from stores and online without the need for a medical exam, a prescription or a fitting by an audiologist. Those hearing aids can be purchased with FSA dollars.
4. Pain management. Whether you have arthritis, a bad back, or other aches and pains, products you purchase for relief are eligible FSA expenses. That includes heating pads, muscle pain relief devices, muscle rollers, arthritis gloves, Epsom salt, bandages, pain relief creams and more.