It may be hard to believe, but 2015 is winding down and the new year is right around the corner. If you’re one of more than 33 million American workers with a flexible spending account (FSA), now is the time to figure out how you should spend your health care dollars before it’s too late.
An FSA allows workers to set aside a pretax portion of their paycheck to be used for eligible health-related expenses, like eye or dental care, acupuncture, fertility treatments, prescriptions or copayments. Employers can also contribute money to workers’ FSAs, which were capped at $2,550 for 2015.
Although FSAs used to have a strict use-it-or-lose-it policy, which required that all FSA money be spent by year’s end or you would lose it, the U.S. Treasury Department now allows employees to save and roll over up to $500 of unspent FSA money.
Still, it’s not uncommon for Americans to forget about their FSAs until the end of the year, at which point they have to rush to spend the stockpiled dollars.
For those of you hoping to avoid the mad health care spending frenzy at the end of this year, Money Talks News offers these tips on ways to ensure that you get the most bang out of your FSA buck:
- To do now: Check to see if your employer offers the FSA carryover provision for funds, up to $500. Your employer may also allow a 2.5-month grace period, which would give you extra time to spend your FSA balance. If neither option is available through your employer, you will need to spend the entire balance of your account or lose the funds come year-end. Also, be sure to check your medical expenses to date to make sure you didn’t forget to submit an eligible health care expense.
- To do this month: If you need to spend your FSA money, now is the time to schedule medical checkups, including orthodontia, dental, vision and chiropractic visits. As Dan King, vice president and general manager of benefit services at ADP, told us: “It could take weeks to get an appointment with a provider,” so if you wait too long to schedule an appointment, you might miss out. In addition, “November is also a very good month to begin thinking about family medical needs for the upcoming calendar year,” said Steve Jackson, senior vice president of strategic development and channel sales at PrimePay. FSA enrollment begins as early as this month, so it’s a good time to figure out if you need to revise your current FSA contributions.
- To do in December: If you still have an FSA balance in December, consider stocking up on your prescriptions and purchasing new glasses or contacts. “Many medical providers [like] eye care providers realize that individuals have extra dollars to spend in their health FSAs at the end of the year,” Jackson said. “For this reason, many medical retail providers will offer special discounts, coupons and promotions” in December.
Do you have an FSA account? How do you plan on spending the remaining balance? Or does your employer offer a rollover or grace period policy? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.