HR is a huge part of my professional life and talking about employee benefits is a topic that others dread, but really excites me. Whenever open enrollment comes around for my loved ones, I love getting a chance to read through their options and help them make the best choices for themselves and their families. One benefit that I always recommend to anyone is to make sure they are utilizing a flexible spending account (FSA) if it is offered!
What is an FSA?
A flexible spending account is an employer-sponsored benefit that allows an employee to set aside a pre-determined pre-tax amount that can be used for eligible health-related out-of-pocket costs for the employee and their family. You determine the amount you want to contribute and there are several calculators online to help you determine how much you are saving.
What can an FSA be used for?
Everyone has FSA-eligible expenses! There are literally thousands of items that are covered under flexible spending accounts. Some of the most common eligible items are doctor visit copays, 1st aid supplies (1st aid kids, bandages, oral medication syringes, thermometers), and eyeglasses and contacts.
How to access FSA funds?
Most plans will issue you a debit card that you can swipe directly for FSA-eligible expenses. You can also pay upfront and submit a claim for reimbursement.
Great Ways for Moms to use FSA funds
- Family planning items: Trying to conceive or not conceive? Consider using your FSA on items like ovulation kits, pregnancy tests, fertility treatment costs, prescribed birth control, and condoms.
- Pregnancy items: Pregnant? Some pregnancy-related items that FSA accounts cover are prenatal vitamins, belly support bands, and hospital delivery expenses.
- Breastfeeding: Are you breastfeeding or pumping? FSA funds can be used for items like breast pumps, milk storage bags, replacement pump parts, nipple cream, nursing pads, and more.
- Postpartum items: Recently delivered? FSA accounts can cover items for post-delivery such as peri bottles and ice packs.
- Monitors: Need to keep an eye on your child? FSA accounts also covered a few of the “smart” baby monitors that monitor baby’s health.
- First aid kits: Are you prepared for an emergency? With children, you definitely need to keep a first aid kit accessible. Consider using a flexible spending account to upgrade your first aid kit or purchase additional kits for your vehicles or travel.
- Feminine hygiene products: Do you need menstrual supplies regularly? If so, using your FSA is a great opportunity to stock up on pads, tampons, liners, etc.
- Expected expenses: Do you have regularly occurring medical expenses? A flexible spending account is ideal to use for things like: recurring prescriptions, co-pays for scheduled doctor appointments, any expenses associated with any upcoming medical procedures, over the counter medication, etc.
What are the cons?
FSA funds are “use it or lose it.” So you will need to ensure that you are utilizing the amount you selected within your healthcare plan’s plan year (this is not always a Jan-Dec calendar year). It is best to check with your employer to see if your plan allows for a portion of the funds to roll over to the next plan year.
Also, flexible spending accounts do not cover everything. There are a few common items that you may be surprised are not covered. Items such as diapers, toothpaste and toothbrushes, formula and bottles.