Last week, we discussed the impact the upcoming Flexible Spending Account changes will have on those considering a LASIK procedure. Since the enrollment deadline for 2011 has passed, there are ways in which patients can utilize a change of Life Status (or Qualifying Life Event) to amend the amount of money set aside in a 2011 FSA account. Unfortunately, not everyone can claim a Qualifying Life Event, and many patients will find that they are “locked in” until January of 2012. If you find that you are not able to make changes to your FSA, do not fear! There are still other ways to make your FSA work for you!
Starting at the end of 2012, employers will be forced to limit FSA accounts to a maximum of $2500. This can make it hard to budget for a big-ticket medical item such as LASIK, especially when keeping other potential health concerns in consideration as well. Fortunately, your maximum may be nearly twice that amount now. If are considering a LASIK procedure but were not able to amend your 2011 benefits to budget for it, you still have another year left. Maximums on FSAs can vary depending on your employer. Some allow anywhere from $3000 to $5000 to be set aside yearly. If you are not sure what your plan allows, contact your benefits department. Ensure that you are making the most of what little time you have left.
It may also be beneficial for you to take advantage of the two-month grace period some plans offer between January and March. This grace period allows you to spend any remaining funds in your FSA from the previous year while also having access to the money you have for the current year. If on December 31st you realize that you still have $500 dollars left in your FSA, you could have an extra two and a half months to use it in addition to the money you set aside on January 1st. Although the grace period for 2011 has passed, you may still be eligible to utilize it next year if you qualify.
You may have heard that beginning in 2011, FSAs can no longer be used to pay for over the counter medications without a prescription, but many other types of medical equipment, such as the kind you can buy at local drug stores, do not need a prescription and are still covered by your FSA. Although this does not include many medicated eye drops, such as those used for allergies or redness, lubricating eye drops are still covered, as well as many other eye-related products. If you are curious about other eligible items, obtain a list from your benefits department. A list of commonly covered items can be found here.
Just because your FSA benefits are changing doesn’t mean you have to change your plans for LASIK, too. If you have been considering the procedure, now is the time! We understand that every budget is different. When you come in for a consultation, we can create a plan that works for you and your FSA. Here at Raleigh Eye Center, we anticipate what the future of FSA will bring, and we are excited that could be bringing us to you!