March 15 is just six days away, and, for many, that’s the last day they’ll be able to spend down their 2010 flexible spending account (FSA) — pre-tax dollars set aside for medical or dependent care expenses. If you’re one of those who want to use it and not lose it, here are seven tips on how to blow your money in a short time.
1. Stockpile Supplies
Getting over-the-counter medicine may require a prescription these days, but if you’re visiting the doctor before March 15, ask your physician for several months’ supply of the OTC drugs that you and your family often use. However, be aware that some doctors may be reluctant to do so because of malpractice concerns, while others may charge a prescription fee as high as $10 for each Rx.
If your physician doesn’t want to help stock your medicine cabinets until the kids are grown, there are lots of other items that can take a big bite out of your FSA account, including prescription sunglasses, contact lenses for a year or more, First Aid kits for every place your kids are, breast pumps and durable medical equipment such as a wheelchair.
“There are 1,500 products you can buy that are FSA approved which don’t require a prescription,” Jeremy Miller, founder of FSAstore.com, told WalletPopin a telephone interview. “Popular items on our site right now are diagnostic equipment, thermometers, first aid kits, family planning and heating pads.”
2. Meet With Your Health Team
Getting a doctor’s appointment in five days may be impossible, but seeing other medical staff may be easier. Human resources expert Steve Kanerecommends seeing the dentist, your chiropractor, your physical therapist and any other medical personnel you think you need to see.
Now is also the time to sign up for medical programs if you’re interested in losing weight or kicking your drug, alcohol or tobacco habits. Take advantage of that gym membership discount, as long as you have a doctor’s note.
3. Consider Prepaying
In some cases, you can prepay for a program or treatment. “If you get services from an institution, you can prepay them as long as they take a check or credit card,” Kane told WalletPop in a telephone interview. “If you have a special ed program or after-school care for your disabled child, anything like that, it should be reimbursable.”
4. No Expense Is Too Small
One of the biggest reimbursable items we tend to overlook is travel expenses for all those medical visits, said Kane. With gasoline over $3.50 a gallon nowadays, those miles add up. Comb through your receipts and also look for items like parking stubs, train fare and cab fare.
5. Round Up All Expenses
That means not just the expenses you incurred but also those of your dependents. Thanks to the new health care law, adult children up to age 26 covered by their parents’ health insurance can qualify as dependents on your FSAs. Ask your FSA administrator to clarify.
6. Spend It Now or Lose It
They really mean it when they say, “use it or lose it.” Having a long shopping list or a fistful of prescriptions doesn’t help. Ordering something online doesn’t help. You must have paid for it by the deadline for it to count.
7. Double-Check Your Account
So you’ve spent you money — all is well, right? Not necessarily. When you seek reimbursement or use your FSA Debit card, make sure the money you’ve spent is taken from your 2010 account and not this year’s, warned Miller. Snafus happen. You just don’t want to be paying for someone else’s mistake.