Use It Or Lose It – Understanding the Rules Governing Your Flexible Spending Account
Even when you have solid health insurance, there are some things your health plan will not pay for. From deductibles and co-payments to charges for brand-name and generic medications, there are plenty of out-of-pocket costs associated with the typical doctor visit, dental exam or hospital stay.
If you want to get a handle on those unreimbursed healthcare costs and make the most of your employer-sponsored benefits, you may want to sign up for a flexible spending account. A flexible spending account, or FSA, allows you to put money aside out of every paycheck on a pre-tax basis and use those funds for qualified healthcare expenses throughout the year.
A flexible spending account can be a particularly attractive way to pay for the cost of dental care. Whether it is a set of braces for your school-age child or a new bridge or dental implant for yourself, you can use the funds in your flexible spending account to pay for any dental costs that are not covered by your regular health insurance plan.
Participating in the flexible spending account (FSA) your employer offers can be a smart move, but there are some potential pitfalls you need to be aware of. One of the most significant potential problems is that the funds in your FSA have an expiration date. The government allows you to make pre-tax contributions to your FSA, but the IRS expects you to use those funds for your health care expenses throughout the year. If you do not use the funds in a timely basis, you could lose the money you worked so hard to put in throughout the year.
A recent change in the laws governing funding and maintaining a flexible spending account is good news for employees, but it does not mean you can totally ignore the money you put away there. As a result of those changes, eligible employees can now roll over a portion of their FSA funds from one year to the next, but the bulk of the money must still be used before the original expiration date.
The best way to make the make sense of your FSA and make sure you do not lose any of the money you worked so hard for is to talk to your healthcare providers. If you have been putting off the dental care you need, just call your dentist to discuss your FSA coverage and find out how much you have available. Dentists are experts at working within the constraints of flexible spending accounts, and they will be able to help you maximize your benefits and get the care you need.