The end of the year is drawing near which may mean you have some extra money to spend.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. Many Americans have money in their Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) that they need to use up before the end of the year. FSAs provide the benefit of putting pre-tax money aside which optimizes your money. Your FSA is set up through your employer and everyone’s rules are a little different. However, most plans run January 1 – December 31. Some companies allow their employees to roll over a set amount into the new year. Checking with your HR department will help you maximize your hard-earned money.
Typically, FSA money has to be used by the end of the year but the COVID-19 relief bill gets you one more year to spend. That means you have until December 31, 2021 to spend FSA money earmarked for last year. The extension also applies for your 2021 FSA money – the credit will be available until the end of 2022.
All funds remaining in the account at the end of the grace period are forfeited according to the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule, which requires all remaining funds in an FSA to be forfeited at the end of the plan year.
If you have FSA money to spend, we’ve compiled a list of some ways to use up your hard-earned FSA dollars that you may not have thought possible:
Fill Your Medicine Cabinet
You can once again purchase over the counter medication with FSA money thanks to the CARES Act. You can stock up on first aid kits or other items that don’t require a prescription such as:
- Heating pads
- Fertility and Pregnancy Tests
- Sleep aids such as Melatonin or a sleep mask
- Motion sickness medication
- Headache medicine
- Antacids or heartburn medication
- Menstrual products
- Contact Solution
- Allergy medication
- Acne creams and cleansers
Under IRS law, certain alternative therapies are eligible for reimbursement. Acupuncture and chiropractic care, alternative medicinal treatments, and herbal supplements are a great way to use up your funds for the year and get a little cash back when you most need it.
Dental benefits often work differently than medical coverage. According to the American Dental Association, this benefit is often capped annually – generally between $1,000 and $2,000. If you have unused funds remaining in your FSA, now may be the time to schedule a last-minute appointment with your dentist, especially if you might need serious work down the road. This way, you can use up the funds remaining in your account by year-end and reduce your out-of-pocket expense next year.
Refilling your prescription medications at year end are a great way to use up your funds in your medical FSA. Take inventory of your prescription drugs, toss out expired ones, and make that call for a refill to your doctor or pharmacy.
Medical Equipment and Supplies
Medical equipment and supplies are eligible for reimbursement under a medical FSA. Walking aids like canes, walkers and crutches, blood pressure monitors, thermometers, and joint braces are just a few. Please note that some will require a note or prescription from your doctor.
Mileage and Other Healthcare-Related Extras
Traveling to and from any medical facility for appointments or treatment for yourself or a dependent are eligible for reimbursement under your FSA. This not only includes traveling by your own vehicle, but also by bus, train, plane, ambulance service and includes parking fees and tolls. However, transportation expenses are not eligible with a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA).
You can put your FSA dollars to work if you are a new or soon-to-be mom on products such as pregnancy tests, fertility monitors, prenatal vitamins and breastfeeding supplies. On the flip side, condoms and other contraceptives are also FSA eligible.
Nicotine Cessation Products
If you are trying to quit smoking, you can use your FSA funds toward nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers and nasal sprays.
If you have opted to contribute to a DCFSA, you can get reimbursed for day care, preschool, summer camps and non-employer sponsored before and after school programs. In addition, funds contributed to this type of FSA can be used for elderly daycare if you’re covering more than 50% your parent’s maintenance costs.
Ancestry Kits with Health Reports
Interested in learning about your heritage and how your DNA can affect your health? You are in luck! Ancestry kits like 23andMe that include health reports are typically considered FSA eligible to be reimbursed approximately 50%.
People often don’t use their FSA out of fear that they need to save it for later. However, every year $400-500 million in FSA funds is forfeited. Lost cash is never a good thing. If you still have leftover funds, consider going to the FSA Store where you can find hundreds of eligible items and pay for them with your account dollars without ever leaving your house.
This list is not an exhaustive list of ways to spend your FSA money. Check with your HR department and insurance agent if you have questions about qualified expenses.
We all know how confusing and complex benefits and healthcare terms can be- the difference between deductible and co-insurance is a common question for many and there are plenty of others like it. When you are comfortable and confident in how your plan works, you can make an informed decision on HOW to use and take advantage of your benefits!
We have created a list and explanation of the most common terms to help you understand and better utilize your health benefits:
- Co-payment: An amount you pay as your share of the cost for a medical service or item, like a doctor’s visit. Co-pays are most common for emergency room, urgent care and prescription drugs. In some cases, you may be responsible for paying a co‐pay as well as a percentage of the remaining charges.
- Co-insurance: Your share of the cost for a covered health care service, usually calculated as a percentage (like 20%) of the allowed amount for the service. For example, if your plan has a 30% co-insurance rate, the carrier will pay 70% of the allowed amount while you pay the balance.
- Deductible: The amount you owe for covered health care services before your health insurance or plan begins to pay. For example, many plans require an individual to pay $1,000 in cumulative deductibles before they begin paying out.
- Dependent coverage: Health insurance coverage extended to the spouse and unmarried children up to age 26 who are totally or substantially reliant on their parents for support, thereby defined as “dependent children”.
- Explanation of Benefits (EOB): Every time you use your health insurance, your health plan sends you a record called an “explanation of benefits” (EOB) or “member health statement” that explains how much you owe. The EOB also shows the total cost of care, how much your plan paid and the amount an in-¬network doctor or other healthcare professional is allowed to charge a plan member (called the “allowed amount”).
- In-Network Provider: A provider who has a contract with your health insurer or plan to provide services to you at a discount. In-Network Providers have contracted with the insurance carrier to accept reduced fees for services provided to plan members. Using in-network providers will cost you less money. When contacting an In-Network Provider, remember to ask, “are you a contracted provider with my plan?” Never ask if a provider “takes” your insurance, as they will all take it. The key phrase is contracted.
- Open Enrollment: A period during which a health insurance company is required to accept applicants without regard to health history.
- Out-of-Network Provider: A provider who doesn’t have a contract with your health insurer or plan to provide services to you at a pre-negotiated discount. You’ll pay more to see an out-of-network provider, sometimes referred to as an out-of-network provider.
- Out-of-Pocket Maximum: The limit or most you’ll pay out of your own pocket for services during your insurance plan period (usually one year).
- Premium: The amount you pay for your health insurance or plan each month.
- Qualifying Life Event (QLE): A change in your life that allows you to make changes to your benefits’ coverage outside of the annual open enrollment period. These changes include a change in marital status (marriage, divorce, death of spouse), a change in the number of eligible children (birth, adoption, death, aging-out), and a change in a family member’s benefits eligibility under another plan (losing a job, Medicare or Medicaid eligibility, etc.)
In addition to understanding these common terms, there are other ways to utilize your benefits, save money and make an informed decision based on your specific needs.
- Flexible Spending Account (FSA): Funded through pre-tax payroll deductions, an FSA is a cost-savings tool that allows you to pay for qualified healthcare-related expenses with pre-tax dollars. Funds deposited in an FSA must be spent in the same year in which they are set aside, or they are forfeited. This rule is often referred to as “use it or lose it.”
- Health Reimbursement Account (HRA): An employer-funded savings plan that will reimburse you for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Unlike an FSA, however, you don’t “use it or lose it” – unused balances will roll over and accumulate over time, though the account cannot be “cashed-out.”
- Health Savings Account (HSA): A savings product that serves as a substitute for traditional health insurance. HSAs enable you to pay for current health costs. They also allow you to save for future medical and retiree health costs tax-free. Unlike an FSA, however, you don’t “use it or lose it” – unused balances will roll over and accumulate over time and can be “cashed-out.”
Understanding all of the terms and acronyms can feel like learning a new language, so it’s helpful to have a basic reference chart. With a good understanding of what some healthcare “benefits lingo” means, it will be easier to find a plan that meets your needs and budget. To explore more healthcare terms, visit https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/common-health-benefit-terms-glossary.aspx
California law AB1554, signed into law by Governor Newsom on August 30, 2019, describes a new requirement for employers to advise participants in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) of claim deadlines before the end of the plan year. Per the law: “This bill would require an employer to notify, in a prescribed manner, an employee who participates in a flexible spending account of any deadline to withdraw funds before the end of the plan year.”
Two different forms must be used, one of which can be electronic. Examples of notification options are “(1) Electronic mail communication. (2) Telephone communications. (3) Text message notification. (4) Postal mail notification. (5) In-person notification.”
Incorporating the claim filing deadline in your annual FSA open enrollment communications would satisfy this requirement as long as it is provided in two forms of the suggested methods. Terminated employees must also be notified of the claim filing deadline. This could be done in exit paperwork, verbally in an exit interview or sent electronically.
A poster could also be posted in an area that is accessible to all employees and should include the annual claim filing deadline as well as the deadline to file after the last day of employment, if mid-year. Click Here for a sample poster.
Your Johnson & Dugan team can work with you to incorporate this notice in your communications and meet this new requirement.
As 2019 is nearing an end, many people are looking at this year’s medical expenses to plan for how much they should set back for next year. In investigating these expenditures, you may notice that you still have money in your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for 2019. FSAs are unique in that any unused money from this plan year is forfeited once the new year begins. You definitely do not want to leave money in your FSA once 2020 rolls around. To help, we’ve compiled a list of some ways to use up your hard-earned FSA money that you may not have thought possible!
- Acne treatment
- Breast pump and supplies
- Chiropractic treatments
- Dental treatments—orthodontia, medically necessary water fluoride treatments, caps, fillings, x-rays
- Eyes—glasses, surgery, contact lenses
- First aid kit
- Genetic testing—including BRCA gene testing
- Motion sickness medicine
- Nutritionist consultations
- Smoking cessation program
- Weight loss programs/surgery
There are even some high-tech gadgets that may fall into the medically qualified expenses category:
- Acne light therapy
- Electronic stimulation instruments for pain
- Medically necessary mattresses
- Smart thermometers
Don’t leave your FSA money on the table in 2019! You have earned this money so make sure you use it to its full potential.
This list is not an exhaustive list of ways to spend your FSA money nor does it guarantee your insurance program considers these to be qualified expenses. Check with your HR department and insurance agent if you have questions about qualified expenses.
Trying to decide which of the many employer-sponsored benefits out there to offer employees can leave an employer feeling lost in a confusing bowl of alphabet soup—HSA? FSA? DCAP? HRA? What does it mean if a benefit is “limited” or “post-deductible”? Which one is use-it-or-lose-it? Which one has a rollover? What are the limits on each benefit?—and so on.
While there are many details to cover for each of these benefit options, perhaps the first and most important question to answer is: which of these benefits is going to best suit the needs of both my business and my employees? In this article, we will cover the basic pros and cons of Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSA), Health Savings Accounts (HSA), and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) to help you better answer that question.
Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSA)
An FSA is an employer-sponsored and employer-owned benefit that allows employee participants to be reimbursed for certain expenses with amounts deducted from their salaries pre-tax. An FSA can include both the Health FSA that reimburses uncovered medical expenses and the Dependent Care FSA that reimburses for dependent expenses like day care and child care.
- Benefits can be funded entirely from employee salary reductions (ER contributions are an option)
- Participants have access to full annual elections on day 1 of the benefit (Health FSA only)
- Participants save on taxes by reducing their taxable income; employers save also by paying less in payroll taxes like FICA and FUTA
- An FSA allows participants to “give themselves a raise” by reducing the taxes on healthcare expenses they would have had anyway
- Employers risk losing money should an employee quit or leave the program prior to fully funding their FSA election
- Employees risk losing money should their healthcare expenses total less than their election (the infamous use-it-or-lose-it—though there are ways to mitigate this problem, such as the $500 rollover option)
- FSA elections are irrevocable after open enrollment; only a qualifying change of status event permits a change of election mid-year
- Only so much can be elected for an FSA. For 2018, Health FSAs are capped at $2,650, and Dependent Care Accounts are generally capped at $5,000
- FSA plans are almost always offered under a cafeteria plan; as such, they are subject to several non-discrimination rules and tests
Health Savings Accounts (HSA)
An HSA is an employee-owned account that allows participants to set aside funds to pay for the same expenses that are eligible under a Health FSA. Also like an FSA, these accounts can be offered under a cafeteria plan so that participants may fund their accounts through pre-tax salary reductions.
- HSAs are “triple-tax advantaged”—the contributions are tax free, the funds are not taxed if paid for eligible expenses, and any gains on the funds (interest, dividends) are also tax-free
- HSAs are portable, employee-owned, interest-bearing bank accounts; the account remains with the employees even if they leave the company
- Certain HSAs allow participants to invest a portion of the balance into mutual funds; any earnings on these investments are non-taxable
- Upon reaching retirement, participants can use any remaining HSA funds to pay for any expense without a tax penalty (though normal taxes are required for non-qualified expenses); also, retirees can use the funds tax-free to pay premiums on any supplemental Medicare coverage. This feature allows HSAs to operate as a secondary retirement fund
- There is no use-it-or-lose-it with HSAs; all funds employees contribute stay in their accounts and remain theirs in perpetuity. Also, participants may alter their deduction amounts at any time
- Like FSAs, employers can either allow the HSA to be entirely employee-funded, or they may choose to also make contributions to their employees’ HSA accounts
- Even though they are often offered under a cafeteria plan, HSAs do not carry the same non-discrimination requirements as an FSA. Moreover, there is less administrative burden for the employer as the employees carry the liability for their own accounts
- To open and contribute to an HSA, an employee must be covered by a qualifying high deductible health plan; moreover, they cannot be covered by any other health coverage (a spouse’s health insurance, an FSA (unless limited), or otherwise)
- Participants are limited to reimburse only what they have contributed—there is no “front-loading” like with an FSA
- Participant contributions to an HSA also have an annual limit. For 2018, that limit is $3,450 for an employee with single coverage and $6,900 for an employee with family coverage (participants over 55 can add an additional $1,000; also, remember there is no total account limit)
- Participation in an HSA precludes participation in any other benefit that provides health coverage. This means employees with an HSA cannot participate in either an FSA or an HRA. Employers can work around this by offering a special limited FSA or HRA that only reimburses dental and vision benefits, meets certain deductible requirements, or both
- HSAs are treated as bank accounts for legal purposes, so they are subject to many of the same laws that govern bank accounts, like the Patriot Act. Participants are often required to verify their identity to open an HSA, an administrative burden that does not apply to either an FSA or an HRA
Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA)
An HRA is an employer-owned and employer-sponsored account that, unlike FSAs and HSAs, is completely funded with employer monies. Employers can think of these accounts as their own supplemental health plans that they create for their employees
- HRAs are extremely flexible in terms of design and function; employers can essentially create the benefit to reimburse the specific expenses at the specific time and under the specific conditions that the employers want
- HRAs can be an excellent way to “soften the blow” of an increase in major medical insurance costs—employers can use an HRA to mitigate an increase in premiums, deductibles, or other out-of-pocket expenses
- HRAs can be simpler to administer than an FSA or even an HSA, provided that the plan design is simple and efficient: there are no payroll deductions to track, usually less reimbursements to process, and no individual participant elections to manage
- Small employers may qualify for a special type of HRA, a Qualified Small Employer HRA (or QSEHRA), that even allows participants to be reimbursed for their insurance premiums (special regulations apply)
- Funds can remain with the employer if someone terminates employment and have not submitted for reimbursement
- HRAs are entirely employer funded. No employee funds or salary reductions may be used to help pay for the benefit. Some employers may not have the funding to operate such a benefit
- HRAs are subject to the Affordable Care Act. As such, they must be “integrated” with major medical coverage if they provide any sort of health expense reimbursement and are also subject to several regulations
- HRAs are also subject to many of the same non-discrimination requirements as the Health FSA
- HRAs often go under-utilized; employers may pay an amount of administrative costs that is disproportionate to how much employees actually use the benefit
- Employers can often get “stuck in the weeds” with an overly complicated HRA plan design. Such designs create frustration on the part of the participants, the benefits administrator, and the employer
For help in determining which flexible benefit is right for your business, contact us!
by Blake London
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com
School’s out! Summer is here, and it’s the time of year when working parents have questions about using their Dependent Care Spending Accounts (DCSAs). Are summer camp expenses eligible? What about day versus overnight camps? Employers and benefit advisors want to be ready with answers about this valuable benefit program.
The following are the top summertime questions about DCSAs and reimbursable expenses:
1. What are the basic rules for reimbursable expenses?
Dependent care expenses, such as babysitting and daycare center costs, must be work-related to qualify for reimbursement. Work-related means the expenses are for the care of the employee’s child under age 13 to allow the employee to work. If the employee is married and filing jointly, the employee’s spouse also must be gainfully employed or looking for work (unless disabled or a full-time student).
In some cases, expenses to care for a disabled dependent, regardless of age, may be reimbursable. This article focuses on expenses for children under 13 since those are by far the most common type of DCSA reimbursement.
2. One of our employees and his family are taking a two-week vacation this summer, but his children’s daycare center will charge its regular fee. Are the expenses reimbursable even if the employee and spouse are off work?
Yes. In most cases, expenses are not eligible unless the dependent care services are necessary for the parents to work, but some exceptions apply. The IRS rules for DCSAs provide that expenses during short, temporary absences are eligible if the employee has to pay the child’s care provider. Absences of up to two weeks are automatically considered short, temporary absences. Depending on the circumstances, longer absences also may qualify.
3. During the school year, our employee uses her DCSA for her 10-year old’s after-school daycare center expenses. This summer, the child’s daycare will be provided by her 20-year old sister. If the older daughter bills for her services, are the costs eligible for reimbursement?
The answer depends on whether the employee or spouse can claim the older daughter as a tax dependent. If the older daughter can be claimed as a dependent, whether or not the employee actually claims her, she is not a qualifying dependent care provider under the DCSA rules.
If the older daughter cannot be claimed as a tax dependent, her charges for providing care are eligible expenses. The specific rule is that a child of the employee, whom the employee cannot claim as a dependent, may be a qualifying provider if the child is age 19 or older by the end of the year.
Note that the employee’s spouse or the child’s parent is never a qualifying provider.
4. One of our employees has to pay an application fee and deposit before her child starts attending a daycare center this summer. Are those expenses eligible for reimbursement?
Prepaid expenses are eligible for DCSA reimbursement, provided the costs are required in order for the child to receive care. In this case, after the daycare center begins providing care, the employee can be reimbursed for the application fee and deposit she paid. On the other hand, if the employee cancels and her child does not attend, then the application fee and deposit are not eligible expenses.
5. An employee will pay day camp expenses for his 8-year-old son and overnight camp expenses for his 12-year-old daughter this summer. Are both types of expenses eligible for reimbursement?
The day camp expenses generally are reimbursable. Expenses for overnight camp, however, are not eligible since overnight care is not work-related.
Under the IRS rules for DCSAs, expenses for food, lodging, clothing, education, and entertainment are not reimbursable. If, however, such expenses are small, incidental expenses that cannot be separated from the cost of caring for the child, they may be included for reimbursement. For instance, the day camp may include lunch, snacks, and some sports activities in its basic fee, which would be eligible for reimbursement.
6. An employee’s children go to private year-round schools. He pays tuition for one child’s grade school and fees for the other child’s nursery school. Are both types of expenses eligible for reimbursement?
Educational expenses are not reimbursable, unless the educational services are merely incidental as part of a child care service. Expenses to attend kindergarten or a higher grade are educational, so the older child’s school fees are not eligible for DCSA reimbursement. (Expenses for before- or after-school care, however, may qualify as reimbursable expenses.)
On the other hand, expenses for a child in nursery school, preschool, or a similar program for children below the level of kindergarten are expenses for care. Such expenses are not considered educational even though the nursery school may include some educational activities.
For detailed information about expenses eligible for DCSA reimbursement, the IRS provides a helpful guide: Publication 503 “Child and Dependent Care Expenses”. Have a fun summer!
Originally Published By ThinkHR.com