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Flexible Spending Accounts 101 (FSAs)

How To Maximize Use Of An FSA

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Find out what expenses are included in your plan. There are likely to be expenses you would not normally think would be included. For example, sunscreen and vitamins may be included as expenses that may be paid from an FSA.

  • For a list of expenses to consider which may be paid from an FSA  see: offsite linkClick on Participants/Employees. Then click on "Eligible Expenses." NOTE: Starting in 2011, over the counter medications may only be paid from an FSA if you have a doctor's prescription. (Your doctor can fax or e mail a prescription to the pharmacy.)
  • Check the expenses you incur or which you are considering against the list of those covered in your plan. 


  • Get receipts for all medical related expenses. Submit them in a timely manner.
  • Take advantage of free medical services and nearly free services with a small copayment offered by your employer or under your health insurance. For example, preventive checkups and tests.


If your insurance plan has a deductible, schedule needed procedures toward the beginning of the plan year so the deductible is used up early.


As you get close to year end:

  • If you contribute to the plan, try not to over contribute next year . Since FSAs have a "use it or lose it" rule, you will lose any money in the account at the end of the year (plus grace period if there is one in your plan.) In order to not lose your money, try to reasonably calculate how much you can pay from the account in the coming year. 
    • One guide is to look back to what expenses you paid for during the current year that could be paid for from the flexible spending account. If you paid for over the counter medications from the account during 2013, deduct them from what you expect to pay in 2014 unless your doctor will give you a prescription for them. (You may recall that  thanks to Health Reform 2010, over the counter medications can only be paid for from these accounts with a doctor's prescription.)
    • Think about what treatments you are likely to need in the coming year - including doctor visits. (The past year may be a starting point for thinking about how many visits you will have next year.) Your doctor's input may be helpful.
  • Consider having procedures now that need to be done, but you would have postponed.
  • Consider starting a therapy which is likely to continue beyond benefits permitted during a year. For example, physical therapy which requires more sessions than covered in a year. You can maximize the number of covered procedures this period and continue the therapy in the next period.
  • Stock up on covered items that you will need in the future. For instance, buy a spare pair of glasses or stock up on staples you are likely to need such as bandages. Get a prescription from your doctor for over the counter items which you can also stock up. 
  • Find out the outer time limit for submitting bills for reimbursement. This is known as the "run out" period - the period of time after the year ends that you have to submit receipts for expenses that you incurred prior to the year end. Employer can add up to 90 days beyond the end of the contract year to turn in bills for expenses incurred during the plan year. This includes reimbursements for what's not paid by the insurance company which you won't know until you receive the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from the insurer.

NOTE: If you submit bills for purchases in even amounts, there are likely to be questions. For example, $100.00

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