Now Is the Time!
When it comes to medical expenses, you might be one of a growing trend of patients who take advantage of a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) benefited to you by your employer. These FSA plans allow users to set aside a certain amount of money, pre-taxes, from each paycheck. But did you know that as of January 1, 2011, your FSA benefits have changed? As of the beginning of the year, you can no longer use your FSA to pay for over the counter medications – such as analgesics, allergy medications and eye drops – unless you have a prescription from your doctor. And more big changes are coming in the next few years.
Starting at the end of 2012, employers will be forced to limit the amount of money employees set aside each year to $2500. That is half the amount typically allowed to FSA users currently. This means that after 2012, it will be more difficult to set money aside for high-dollar medical items and procedures, such as LASIK surgery.
While many consumers might have known about the change in over-the-counter drug coverage, they are still unaware that these additional changes are going into effect. Were you thinking of setting aside FSA dollars to fund a LASIK procedure? Unfortunately, the deadline for changing 2011 FSA elections has passed, at least for most users. But it may not be too late! Did you know that there are certain Qualifying Life Events which will allow you to change your FSA elections?
Most programs consider Qualifying Life Events (or Changes in Life Status) to be events such as the birth of a child, the death of a dependent, change of employment, change in marital status, and such. Other events may qualify as well, so if you are unsure, talk to your employer’s benefits department or your FSA provider. If you happen to fall into any one of these categories, then you still have time to take advantage of your FSA benefits before 2012. But you must act quickly, because many FSA programs will only allow you to alter your elections within a certain period of time following your Change of Life event.
It is also important to keep in mind that your program may not allow you to increase the amount of money in your FSA when claiming certain Qualifying Life Events. Some FSA programs only allow for changes in elections which are reasonable under certain circumstances. For example, if you have lost a dependent (perhaps a child who has exceeded the age of dependent coverage), you would not be expected to increase the amount of money in your FSA because you now have fewer dependents and theoretically need less money to cover medical expenses. Another example may be a spouse quitting a job to stay at home. This may also indicate a decrease in FSA elections, perhaps because there is no longer a need to pay for dependent childcare. Again, if you are unsure, contact your FSA provider or benefits department.
Come back next week to learn more about what you can do to utilize your FSA and plan your LASIK procedure before it’s too late!