flex your healthcare dollars
Why you should consider a Flexible Spending Account, especially with eyecare
Dr. Robyn Clausen | BAUER & CLAUSEN OPTOMETRY
Have you been contributing to a FLEX plan? Do you have money in that account that needs to be spent before the year is out?
Though it’s easy to love the tax benefits of a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), it can sometimes be difficult to understand which expenses are allowed under the plan. Not to mention the time it takes to shop, which can be a stressful addition to your holiday ‘to do’ list.
WHAT IS AN FSA OR FLEX ACCOUNT FOR?
Most FSAs can help you pay for any qualifying out-of-pocket vision, dental or medical expenses. If you’re not already contributing to one, ask your accountant if you should consider it for next year. The money you contribute isn’t taxed, which makes every dollar go further.
In 2021, the maximum contribution is $2750 for an individual FSA or $5000 for a dependent care FSA. These dollars are exempt from federal income tax, federal unemployment tax as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes.
WHAT’S A ‘QUALIFIED’ OR ‘ELIGIBLE’ EXPENSE?
Health care costs are considered qualified or eligible if the expense is not covered by insurance. Every plan differs, so the items and services that may be included can vary widely.
You might be surprised – in a good way – at the number of options you have for using your hard-earned cash, including:
· Eye exams – An annual eye exam not only allows your eye doctor to assess your vision, he/she can also examine other parts of the eye that reflect your overall health and update your prescription (if any). Eyewear prescriptions last 12 months and are required to purchase prescription glasses or contact lenses. Keeping your prescription up to date protects your health and saves you hassle down the road.
· New glasses – Even if you’re not looking for a new style or in need of a new prescription, a backup pair of glasses is a smart investment. If ever there’s a mishap (think dog mistakes glasses for chew toy or you leave them on your seat and forget…until you sit down), you’ll still be able to see while you get the necessary repairs.
· Task-specific glasses – Do you have a hobby? Maybe your work requires specialized eyewear for close-up viewing, prolonged computer work or safety from flying debris? Whether you’re reading, tying flies or sawing logs, most optical stores both frame and lens options to keep your eyes comfortable, safe, and seeing clearly.
· Contact lens purchase or refills – For those who wear contacts, it can be tempting to over-wear disposable lenses when you run low. Overwearing can cause eye irritation or infection. Keep your eyes safe and comfortable by investing your FSA dollars and stocking up on lenses.
· Prescription sunglasses – Though most optical stores offer both prescription and non-prescription sunglasses, most FSAs will only pay for sunglasses with prescription lenses. However, you have unlimited options in lens treatment and frame style, including polarized or mirrored lenses and specialty styles for recreation, sports, or outdoor work.
· Eye drops – If you suffer from occasional allergies or mild dry eye, there are number of over-the-counter drops that can help. For allergies, we recommend Pataday. For natural tears, try Refresh or Systane. All of these options are widely available, safe, non-addictive and, generally, eligible for payment with FSA funds.
· Dry eye treatments – Over 16 million Americans suffer from dry eyes, especially later in life. Symptoms vary and can include itching, burning, foreign body sensation, grittiness and more. If over-the-counter drops aren’t giving you sufficient relief, specialized dry eye treatments may be a worthwhile investment. Each treatment is tailored to your unique situation can provide soothing relief for up to 12 months. Vision insurance does not cover dry eye treatments; however, medical insurance may offer coverage on some services. Regardless, dry eye treatments are most often a qualified FSA expense.
Check with your employee benefits expert at work or contact your FLEX account provider for specific details before making a large purchase and always follow your eye doctor’s recommendations.