Health Insurance 101: How to Use FSA Funds Before You Lose Them

Using FSA funds is not as hard as you might think.

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Taking care of your health gets expensive. Payment usually comes out of your hard-earned salary, after taxes are taken out. To help save money on health insurance, many people opt for a Flexible Spending Account, or FSA. However, you could end up losing money this way if you’re not using FSA funds before the end of the year.

What is an FSA?

Most health insurance offerings through your employer will have a choice of an FSA or HSA. FSA stands for Flexible Spending Account. This program allows you to set aside money from your paycheck (before taxes) to pay for medical and health expenses out of pocket. You might use up all your FSA funds simply from paying copays and deductibles throughout the year.

Unlike a Health Savings Account (HSA), unused FSA funds don’t roll over to the next year. That means any money leftover at the end of the year basically goes to waste. You likely signed up for an FSA to help save you money, so using FSA funds by the end of the policy year can be a big help.

What are tips for using FSA funds before it’s too late?

If you make it to the end of the year and don’t have any more prescriptions to pick up, doctor’s appointment copays, or lab test bills to settle, there are other products that your FSA funds are eligible for. In fact, many of them are items that are good to keep stocked in your home. Plus, most are actually easy to pick up in the nick of time.

Here are some ideas to use up your FSA funds before it’s too late:

  1. Sunscreen sprays and creams: That’s right! SPF is a must-have for skin health, so stock up on sunscreen.
  2. First-aid kits or products: Bandages, antibiotic ointments, and sanitizing wipes and sprays are always good to have on hand. Many retailers even sell pocket-sized kits in portable shapes so that you are always prepared.
  3. Acne products: This includes certain cleansers, serums, and even pimple patches.
  4. Acupuncture: Though it’s a common practice in Eastern medicine, Western medical practitioners are also recognizing its benefits for certain metabolic, nerve pain, and mental health disorders. The catch: A doctor has to refer you to an acupuncturist for treating a specific health problem in order for it to be FSA eligible.
  5. Feminine hygiene products: There’s still a “luxury tax” on the least luxurious experience, but at least your FSA can pick up the tab on tampons, pads, menstrual cups, and even period underwear.
  6. Nicotine patches: Need to quit smoking? That’s FSA approved.
  7. Dental procedures: Even if you have separate dental insurance, you can still submit a claim for dentures, fillings, crowns, mouthguards, and more. You can also retroactively submit these for FSA reimbursement if you still have proof of payment.
  8. Prenatal care: Your health needs expand at least two-fold, so pick up prenatal vitamins and other maternity products.

How else can I spend the money?

There’s plenty more that could fall under your FSA umbrella, depending on your conditions and doctor recommendations. There’s even an FSA Store where you can find products that are all eligible for FSA reimbursement. Finally, you may be able to find even more ideas by researching your plan online or talking to an insurance representative.