The weather is cooling down and the end of the year is approaching us. For many, this means it’s open enrollment season for our employer-sponsored benefits and only a few months to spend the rest of our Flexible Savings Account (FSA) dollars.

What is an FSA? An FSA allows employees to set aside a portion of pre-tax earnings to pay for qualified medical, dental, and vision expenses. Employees generally choose this amount during their open enrollment. For 2019, employees could contribute up to $2,700 as an individual.

Are you wondering whether you are enrolled in an FSA? Do you want to know how much is left in your account? Do you have claims you need to submit? Are you wondering when your FSA plan year is over? To find out these answers you need to find out who your FSA plan provider is.

You can find out who your FSA provider is in a few ways. Take a look at your FSA debit card, check out the information provided on your benefits enrollment platform( e.g.Employee Navigator or ADP Workforce Now), or review the benefits guide provided by your benefits broker or HR team.

What is the deadline on spending FSA dollars? It depends. An FSA is a “use-it-or-lose-it” account where the allocated dollars must be spent by the end of the plan year in order to take advantage of the funds. Your plan year could align with your medical renewal or the calendar year. FSA’s have two extensions that employees need to be aware of: the $500 rollover and a 2.5 month grace period. The $500 rollover rule allows users to rollover $500 to the next plan year. The grace period allows employees an additional 2.5 months after the plan year ends to spend their funds. FSA accounts can have a grace period, rollover, or neither, but not both.

If you are close to the end of the plan year, you may be looking for ways to spend the rest of your FSA dollars so that you don’t lose out on the money you set aside. Here are five ways to spend your FSA that you likely haven’t thought of yet:

  1. Take your Spending Online. Online retailers have made it easy for employees to purchase FSA- eligible items straight to their door. Amazon recently created an online market dedicated to FSA-eligible items. Other online retailers include the FSAStoreCVS, and Walgreens.

2. Update your Frames. Prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses are FSA-eligible expenses. Most vision plans only cover frames in lieu of contact lenses every 12 months, providing a perfect opportunity to use FSA dollars to get contact lenses and frames in the same year.

Online frame companies such as Warby Parker accept FSA dollars for all prescription eyewear purchases — including prescription sunglasses, progressives, readers, and contact lenses. Warby Parker makes the shopping easy with their free home try-on program. They allow customers five days to try out five frames to see how they work, with a free shipping label included.

3. Fertility treatments and testing. This is often not thought of by employees as an item which can be tax-deductible, however many services which are used to diagnose, evaluate, and/or treat infertility can be paid for with FSA funds. These services include In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), egg and sperm storage, fertility testing, and Intrauterine insemination (IUI).

Take a look at Modern Fertility, an online company that provides a comprehensive fertility hormone test you can take at home. The test is priced at $159 which is a fraction of the cost if you were to visit a lab or hospital. Because fertility coverage is a question I often get asked about from employees, I went ahead and purchased the kit myself (using my FSA dollars). The test was easy to take and the reports were fascinating and useful. The data was gathered from a prick of the finger and the reports include stats on menopause and ovarian reserve.

Modern Fertility Kit

4. Filling up the first-aid kit or medicine cabinet. Open enrollment and cold and flu season happen to share the same time of year. It’s an ideal time to stock up on cold medicine, the flu shot, heating/cooling packs, and a new thermometer. While you are stocking up on the cold and flu-season must-haves, grab the miscellaneous items you may need over the next year such as a first-aid kit, sunblock, and pain reliever. These everyday items can be purchased from your local grocery store/pharmacy with your FSA card or use an online retailer such as Amazon or CVS.

5. Mental Health and Wellbeing. The holiday season mixed in with the pressure of the end of the year goals and planning for 2020, all bring a layer of added stress to our lives. Reality is — it’s tough to find quality, affordable, and in-network care for mental health and it has started to become a real problem for employers and employees. Utilize the rest of those FSA dollars to take care of yourself. FSA dollars can be used to pay for various forms of mental health care: in-person and virtual counseling, acupuncture, substance abuse programs, and psychiatric care.

For virtual counseling check out Talkspace, a digital therapy app that offers weekly therapy sessions for $65/wk. Talkspace conducts a brief assessment and matches you with a therapist. From there, access your designated therapist 5 days a week, through text, video, and audio messaging. The invoice for Talkspace can be submitted to your FSA for reimbursement.

Talkspace App

Don’t forget your health plan is required to cover mental health as one of the ten essential benefits under the ACA. Truth is- you will likely have trouble finding a therapist who is in-network under your health plan. With this in mind, you may be able to submit mental health claims as ‘out of network’ and receive an out of network reimbursement (i.e 70% to $150 reimbursement). Ask your HR or employee experience team what other resources your benefits offer for mental health. It’s likely you have access to virtual or telephonic counseling through your health plan and/or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

How can you prevent this year-end rush to spend your FSA dollars next year? It’s all about planning. Factor in your medical expenses from years past and any new treatments or procedures you are considering in the year ahead. Consider expensive treatments such as orthodontics, LASIK eye surgery, and IVF. Additionally, factor in the copays and the deductible on your health plan to ensure you are putting away enough savings for out of pocket costs. Download my FSA Calculator Worksheet to figure out how much you need to save next year.

Jessica Du Bois is an employee benefits consultant for Business Benefits Group. She works with companies to modernize their employee benefits by focusing on user experience and cost containment. Jessica is passionate about helping organizations prosper and attract top talent by creating a people and purpose-focused benefits program. Find out more at jessicadubois.co or email her at jessica.dubois@bbgbroker.com.

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