- By Mary Caldwell For the AJC
If you have a flexible spending account, you're saving money on some of your health care expenses, which is definitely a good thing. The account allows you to save pretax dollars in an account that you can use for assorted medical expenses.
The only drawback is that in many cases, you have to "use it or lose it," since most FSAs require that you spend the money in your account by the end of the year or else the funds go to your employer.
Check with your employer for the specifics of your plan since the rules vary, according to CBS News. Many require you to spend it all before the end of the year. Some allow you to have a two-and-a-half-month extension, so you might have until March 2018 to spend it. Others let you carry over up to $500 to use in the next year. Plans may offer either the extension or the carryover amount, but not both.
If you've found yourself trying to spend some of your FSA money at the last minute, you probably won't have time to get a prescription for some of the items that could be covered. That eliminates over-the-counter pain relievers, vitamins and many items that wouldn't ordinarily need a prescription but require one if you're using FSA money to pay for them.
That still leaves many health care items to spend your money on, including the following nine things, according to the FSA store:
If you need a blood pressure monitor, thermometer, oximeter to measure your blood's oxygen levels, stethoscope or cholesterol meter, it's covered by your FSA.
First aid items
Pick up first aid kits or supplies such as Band-Aids, adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, gauze, tweezers and more. Keep a larger kit at home along with smaller versions in each of your cars.
Foot care items
Over-the-counter foot care items are covered by FSAs without a prescription as long as they don't contain medical ingredients. If that's the case, a prescription would be required. Look for foot cushioning products if you have bunions, corns or other foot problems, and treat yourself to some specialized insoles to help give your feet some relief.
You may not be thinking about sunscreen this time of year, but you should use it even during winter. Check expiration dates and stock up for summer while you're at it. Since experts recommend using a shot glass of sunscreen, most people don't use nearly enough, so it pays to buy several bottles or tubes.
Treat your dry winter lips to a few new lip balms. Sure, they won't take up much of your spending account, but they'll make a nice treat if there's one you've been wanting to try.
This can include everything from TENS units, which send stimulating pulses across the skin and along nerve strands to reduce pain, to foot rollers. However, over-the-counter pain medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen will require a prescription to be covered.
Condoms are covered, and if they happen to fail to do their job, so are pregnancy tests.
Mobility aids such as walkers, canes and wheelchairs can be paid for with FSA funds. So can bathroom helpers such as grab bars and raised toilet seats.
People with diabetes can purchase pen needles, glucose tablets and liquids, syringes, test strips, insulin carrying cases and glucose monitors.