Do you have a flexible spending account, also called a flexible spending arrangement (FSA), through your employer? If so, you know that they are a great way to help you spend less on health care. But they only save you money if you spend everything in the account before the deadline, which is usually the end of the calendar year.
For 2019, the IRS limit for annual FSA contributions was $2,700, a $50 increase over 2018. And, most of the time, that money is use it or lose it. Whatever you have contributed to your account this year, your time to spend it is almost up.
You might have a little bit of wiggle room. There are two cases in which you can get extra time to spend your FSA money:
- The rollover option: In accounts where employees have the rollover option, you can move up to $500 from this year’s money to next year’s balance.
- The grace period option: If your employer has chosen the grace period option, you may have up to two and a half additional months to spend the entire balance of your account. Usually, the grace period ends on March 15 of the following year.
However, you are only allowed one of these options, and it has been chosen by your employer ahead of time. Check with your human resources department to find out which option you have for your account.
How to use FSA money
Regardless of which option you have in your FSA account, you will need to spend all of your remaining money before a certain deadline. And with that deadline approaching, we checked in with some medical experts to get their advice on what you might want to stock up on if you have FSA money that you need to spend. Your first stop is to the FSA Store, where you can search and purchase any eligible items. Next, try these options…
1. Dental care
We all know that dental and orthodontic care can be very expensive, especially if you’re one of the more than 74 million Americans with no dental insurance. If you have FSA money that must be spent, why not invest in your smile?
“For individuals that have FSA money to spend and have dental issues such as an overbite
or crooked teeth, a flexible spending account may cover the costs for orthodontic treatment,” says Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling, DMD, PC, an orthodontist in New York City. “Some of the treatments include invisible clear aligners with Invisalign, ceramic, metal braces, and accelerated orthodontics.”
Dental care products available on FSA Store include:
- Dental guards and night guards
- Denture cleaner
- Denture and gum wipes
2. Natural pain relief
“Because pain management without opioids is important, and one-third of people will have chronic pain or need surgery at some point in their lives, invest now in drug-free pain relief,” says Dr. Amy Baxter, NIH researcher and pediatric and pain management specialist at Pain Care Labs in Atlanta, Georgia. “You don’t want to go hunting when pain or injury strike—and the likelihood is you’ll need them in your medicine cabinet at some point.”
She recommends a product she invented, the Buzzy Mini Shot Blocker, which is available on the FSA site without a prescription. It is a hand-held device that combines ice-cold temperature and vibration therapies to eliminate needle pain and anxiety.
Other drug-free pain management products that are available on the FSA Store include:
- Cold packs and ice bags
- Heat packs
- Acupressure mats
- LED light therapy products
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units and additional pads
- Cooling fever relief sheets
- Massage therapy balls
3. Restock your medicine cabinet
Before the end of the year, be sure to get one last refill of any prescriptions that are eligible for refill—that way you can cover the costs with your FSA funds. Even if you have no current health problems, it can’t hurt to have some of these products in your medicine cabinet, just in case a future need arises:
- Medical tape
- Lip balm
- First aid kits
- Ace bandages
- Knee, wrist, or ankle braces
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, like Tylenol, Advil, and Motrin
- Saline nasal spray
- Allergy medicine, like Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra, and Benadryl
Now get out there, and use your FSA money before it’s too late. If you need more suggestions, visit the FSA Store and search through their available items. Here’s to your health!