Navigating healthcare benefits and wellness perks can be tricky. Often the details are quite specific and involve websites or pamphlets that need to be studied to know what’s available to you. Flex Spending is one area that is often asked about, but under-utilized.
Flex Spending Accounts (FSA) are a popular feature with many healthcare plans. With an FSA, money from each paycheck gets deposited automatically into your flex account. This money is then saved for you so that you are able to use it to pay for healthcare expenses not covered by your medical plan. You pick what amount of money you want diverted into the account, and the advantage is that the funds you add to this account come out of your paycheck tax-free. Your FSA can help pay for necessary expenses such as prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, or contact lenses. Additionally, FSAs can cover things like routine eye exams, co-payments, deductibles, and more.
Employers often encourage employees to take advantage of these accounts because of the tax savings, and because it promotes thoughtful spending on health and wellness products and services. The downside? These accounts are on a “use it or lose it” basis and don’t usually roll over after a year. Don’t wait until the last minute to take advantage of flex spending!
So how do you take advantage of your FSA? First, read any literature you may have from your employer regarding the terms of flex spending, guidelines and suggestions for how to use it. Make sure you know how much you are putting into your account and consider price-checking to see what you will spend during the year so that you know how much to divert into the FSA each month. Once you know how to use your flex spending, make an appointment to see your eye care professional and get a yearly exam and eyewear. You may also want to discuss pricing with the provider so that you know what to expect for payment. Once you’ve had your exam and received your eyewear, keep your receipts and any necessary paperwork either to submit for coverage or to have for your records.
Some other things to know: there are other options similar to FSAs. Health Savings Accounts, for example, are similar to an FSA in that you divert tax-free money from your paycheck into the account and use it on healthcare purchases, but these funds are not lost year-to-year. HSA funds accrue over time. They apply to the same sorts of purchases including prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses and contact lenses, so check to see what options are available to you.