As the end of the year nears, many of us are preoccupied with holiday parties, searching for the perfect gift for loved ones or making lists of things to accomplish before the new year begins. During this busy time, one important task is often forgotten on the to-do list: Make sure to use flexible spending account (FSA) funds before it’s too late.
Some employers will allow you to roll over $500 of your FSA funds into the next year. However, for those who are not permitted a carryover, these funds must be used by the end of the benefits year, which for most people is Dec.31. Otherwise the funds will be forfeited back to your employer. In fact, each year more than $400 million in tax-free income is wasted when FSA holders don’t spend these funds or fail to submit expenses to be reimbursed.
That said, it’s not too late to create a health care checklist to keep you and your family on a healthy track during these last few weeks of the year. Here are five ways to ensure you get the most out of your benefits dollars:
1. Schedule annual check-ups with ALL physicians. Visit important specialists, such as an optometrist, dentist, dermatologist or gynecologist, along with your primary care physician.
2. Don’t forget about eye care/medical aids. Consider whether you need an additional pair of eyeglasses, contact lenses or even orthotic shoe inserts to help utilize FSA funds.
3. Consider purchasing low-cost health care items. Stock up on items for year-round and emergency use, such as first-aid kits, contact solution, thermometers, neck/wrist/joint braces, aspirin and other pain relievers.
4. Ask employers about unique FSA offerings. Find out whether Lasik eye surgery, massages, acupuncture treatments, and other unique procedures or treatments are included in your FSA plans.
5. Submit receipts. If spending your entire FSA funds still seems unrealistic after any last-minute checkups and first-aid purchases, double-check to make sure you’ve submitted past receipts for eligible out-of-pocket health care purchases so you can be reimbursed.
“It’s important to review your out-of-pocket expenses from the past year and consider any changes that may occur to gain a better idea of how much to contribute to an FSA in the coming year,” says Matthew Owenby, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Aflac.
By creating a list, and checking it twice, you can ensure that you don’t leave money on the table as you prepare for a new year.