Most people know they will lose the pre-tax dollars they have salted away in their healthcare FSA, also known as a cafeteria account, if they fail to spend it by the end of a calendar year. But you may not be aware of the many things you can spend it on, pre-approved by the Internal Revenue Service, in addition to the typical trip to the doctor's office.
Here's our take on the top 10 ways to drain your FSA:
1. Get some glasses. If you or anyone in your family needs corrective lenses, including contact lenses and prescription sunglasses, now is the time to order them. Because many health insurance plans don't cover such things, you will probably use a sizable chunk of your cafeteria funds to cover the bills. Don't forget to include in your claim the money spent on non-prescription supplies such as contact lens solution.
2. Stock up on drugs. Fill any prescriptions that allow you to buy in bulk. And don't forget non-prescription drugs, such as headache medication and cold remedies. Even sunscreen and sunburn treatment creams are OK.
3. Birth control. Condoms, birth control pills and other medically legitimate birth control devices are approved expenses.
4. Sports equipment. Things you wear specifically to avoid athletic injuries, such as mouth guards, may be covered, depending on your company's plan.
5. Medical scans. Ask your doctor to order a precautionary scan of your arteries and/or your heart. These tests may be able to flag problems early.
6. Check your choppers. Any co-pays you shell out for dental exams or dental work are covered expenses. You might be able to claim the cost of a special toothbrush or toothpaste, too, if you buy them from your dentist, but you can't claim such routine things if you buy them over the counter.
7. See an acupuncturist. Alternative medical treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic care or a Christian Science treatment are covered. Naturopathic or herbal remedies, on the other hand, may not be covered unless they are prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner. Scientology audits are out, too.
8. Stop smoking, drinking or abusing drugs. Any clinical smoking-cessation treatment is an OK expense, along with any prescribed medications. The same holds true for treatments to end a drug or alcohol dependency, along with meals and lodging expenses at a treatment center.
9. Examine your life. Expenses for psychiatric care or psychotherapy are covered, as a rule, as are many forms of family counseling, prenatal counseling and adoption counseling.
10. Clean your vents. Yes, you can claim the expense of having your home's heating and cooling vents cleaned, as long as you explain a medical need for it.
And finally, a bonus idea: Travel, meals and lodging can be approved expenses if you incurred them while getting medical treatment for yourself or for a family member.