Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) allow you to set aside pre-tax funds to cover healthcare costs, and there are dependent-care FSAs, too. That untaxed money can help to defray the costs of medical care or caring for a dependent.
Unfortunately, money generally must be used by the end of the calendar year with most FSA plans. Your employer can offer you up to 2 1/2 extra months to use the money, or let you carry over as much as $500 into the following year. But plans can't offer both features, and not all offer either one. Even if they do, the time you have left to use your funds may still be running short.
If you find that you have only a limited amount of time to use FSA funds, you definitely don't want to just let the money disappear. But what should you do to ensure you're using the dollars set aside for your care?
How to use up your leftover FSA funds
Funds can be spent on medical and dental care, so the ideal way to use up the money in your account is to schedule any appointments you'll need soon.
You could, for example, get a dental cleaning or a fluoride treatment, or schedule a checkup and routine blood tests with your doctor to make sure you're in good shape. An eye exam is another good option, especially since FSA funds can be used to cover costs of glasses or contact lenses.
FSAs can also pay for prescription drugs. If you take medications on a regular basis, see if your doctor can write a prescription for several months' worth of pills so you can pay your prescription co-pays with FSA money before time runs out.
If you don't need any medical care or prescription drugs, you can use your FSA funds to buy qualifying products to keep in your home. Some options include:
- First-aid products
- Contact lens solution
- Pregnancy tests
- Diabetic supplies like insulin, glucose monitors, or test strips
The costs of weight-loss programs can also be covered if you're losing weight to treat a specific medical condition such as obesity, high blood pressure, or heart disease.
Unfortunately, over-the-counter drugs can no longer be bought with FSA funds as a result of rule changes under Obamacare. But if you need medications such as aspirin or antacid to treat a specific condition and you can get your doctor to prescribe them, you can use the money to pay for it.
The IRS has a detailed list of what kinds of medical care and medical devices are eligible, so if you have any doubts about whether something you're considering purchasing is covered, check out the list.
Plan today to use your FSA funds
If your funds must be spent by Dec. 31, or by March with the extended deadline, consider scheduling your appointments or shopping for qualifying products today so you don't lose the money you set aside for your halthcare.