What can You Spend FSA Dollars On?


Does your company offer an FSA or HSA as part of your overall healthcare plan, but you’re on the fence as to whether it’s the right fit for you? We have good news. When it comes to vision care, there are plenty of ways to put these dollars to good use while saving money in the long-run. 

Here’s a closer look at how these pre-taxed medical expense accounts work. We’ll tell you what you can spend FSA dollars on, and how to access your funds when you need them.

How Do FSAs and HSAs Work and Are They Worth It?

Before you can spend FSA/HSA dollars, you should understand how the two plans work and how they differ. A flexible spending account (FSA) uses money you can electively have withdrawn from your paycheck monthly before taxes are deducted. You can put aside as much as $2,700 for individuals or $5,000 for dependent care plans. These funds go into an account designated exclusively for eligible medical expenses. These include doctor visits, prescription drugs, a variety of dental care expenses, and, of course, vision care. Most FSAs have a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy. This means you must use the full account balance by the benefit or calendar year’s close or you risk losing any unspent funds. 

A health savings account works similarly. However, these funds don’t expire at the end of the year like FSAs. Instead, these accounts may earn interest over time, making them especially handy if unforeseen medical expenses crop up. HSAs contributions are also deducted from your paycheck. You can contribute up to $3,550 or up to $7100 for a family HSA in 2020. The catch? HSAs are only offered with high deductible insurance plans. 

FSAs and HSAs are arguably “worth it” as they enable you to finance every day, out-of-pocket medical expenses tax-free. Plus, you can choose a contribution amount based on your individual needs to help prevent losing unused dollars. 

What Vision Expenses Can You Spend FSA Dollars On?

Vision care is a great way to maximize FSA/HSA pre-taxed dollars. Nearly all basic optical care expenses are FSA and HSA eligible. These expenses include eye exams, prescription lenses (including sunglasses), frames, contact lenses, eye care supplies like contact cleaning solution and eye drops, and even some corrective eye surgery like LASIK. 

Vision care is one of the best places to invest your FSA/HSA dollars. Unlike most medical expenses such as doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, and x-rays, vision expenses include purchases that can last you into the next year. Purchases like additional sets of frames or extra packs of contact lenses are included.

What Isn’t Covered by My FSA/HSA?

While most eye care services are eligible for FSA/HSA coverage, note that some eye-related expenses don’t quite make the cut. Cosmetic procedures like eyelid surgery, dark circle correction, eyelash extensions, and botox injections around the eye area are not covered by FSA/HSA plans. The same goes for transportation costs to and from eye exams, prescription goggles or masks, and non-prescription sunglasses. If you suffer from light sensitivity, you may be able to use FSA funds to cover over-the-counter (OTC) sunglasses. Your condition will need to be medically documented, however. 

How Do I Use My FSA/HSA Dollars?

In most cases, your healthcare provider will give you an FSA/HSA card that grants you direct access to your funds. They work similarly to a debit or credit card. If you don’t receive a card, you may need to submit claims to your provider for reimbursement. This process requires that you keep itemized receipts for all eligible purchases and/or doctor’s notes in some cases. Some FSA/HSA programs even make direct payments to healthcare providers. It’s important to review the details of your plan when you sign up. 

The bottom line: There are plenty of ways to make the most of FSA/HSA tax-free dollars, especially when it comes to vision care. Take advantage of these programs when they’re offered, and you’re unlikely to leave money on the table.  

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