5 Back-to-School Shopping Tips for your HSA or FSA
By: Nicolette Orlemans, communications and social media strategist, FSAstore.com & HSAstore.com
Parents across the country are heaving a sigh of relief as summer winds down and back-to-school season kicks off, ushering in the structure of the school year. But back-to-school season also can bring additional expenses, including some health care costs that people with a health plan may need to pay for out of pocket. Fortunately, you can pay for many school-related health care needs with a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) — special, tax-advantaged accounts.
Although consumer health care spending accounts have been around for several years now, and millions of Americans enroll in them annually, there is still confusion about how they work and what’s eligible. For example, did you know that many back-to-school health care expenses (such as the following) can be paid for with your FSA or HSA?
- Sports physicals – Student athletes are required to have a physical on file in order to participate in sports. Pay for it with your FSA or HSA.
- Immunizations – Shots can be painful, but paying for them doesn’t have to be if you use your spending account.
- Orthodontics and vision care – Keep your student’s eyes sharp and teeth straight by using your HSA or FSA to cover those monthly trips to the orthodontist, annual eye exams or expenses for contact lenses, contact lens solution and eyeglasses.
- Medications and health care supplies – Use your account to pay for medication that your child needs to have on hand with the school nurse (think inhaler, Epi-Pen or over-the-counter allergy or pain medicine). NOTE: Medications require a prescription You can also use your account to restock your medicine cabinet with items like first-aid kits and Band-Aids, electrotherapy pain relief kits, hot and cold therapy packs, handheld steam inhalers, acne treatment laser therapy (non-medicated treatment), and more.
- College preparation – Children can stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Keep your adult children healthy by preparing a health care kit for their dorm or apartment. Include health essentials like thermometers, cold medicine (will require a prescription for FSA reimbursement), pain relief, Band-Aids, and contact lens solution— or whatever they may need to stay in top health. You can make health care even easier for your college student by ordering them an FSA or HSA debit card (if available to you). This allows them to pay for health care expenses if they are far away from home.
But wait, there’s more! Convenience and flexibility are core to how FSAs and HSAs work, but these accounts also provide a benefit that many people aren’t aware of: tax advantages. Using an FSA or HSA allows you to: 1) reduce your taxable income by the amount you contribute to the account, 2) pay no tax on withdrawals for eligible expenses, and 3) pay no tax on interest earned in the account (for HSAs only). If you have an HSA, unused dollars always belong to you, even if you change jobs or retire, but be mindful of using your HSA money for qualified healthcare expenses to avoid getting penalized.
Learn more, spend smart
Check out the wealth of resources and information available online about FSAs and HSAs, because the more you know, the more you can save.
Nicolette Orlemans is the communications and social media strategist of FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com, companion websites that provide one-stop shopping dedicated exclusively to products that are eligible for reimbursement through a Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account.