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Top ways to spend your FSA dollars before the year-end

Do you still have money left in your health flexible spending account (FSA)? If so, don’t let the funds go to waste.

By Neil Chaffee, MPA
December 14, 2017

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Many of us are focused on finishing holiday shopping this time of year. But for some of us, there’s another type of shopping spree going on. That’s the spree to use any remaining dollars in a flexible spending account (FSA).

If you have an FSA, you can use these dollars to pay for things like medical expenses, doctor visit copays, vision expenses and prescriptions.

But, FSA dollars have an expiration date. If you don’t use your funds, you may lose them. In fact, one-third of employees with FSAs lose an average of $120 a year, according to Businessolver.

So what should you do if you have to spend your FSA funds before the end of the year? Thankfully, there are plenty of options. Here are some of the most common questions I’m asked when it comes to FSAs – and how I answer them.

What is a flexible spending account?

An FSA or flexible spending account is an account used to pay for your medical expenses. It’s set up by your employer, and the money is pulled directly from your paycheck. You don’t pay taxes on this money.

For 2018, employees can contribute $2,650 to their health FSAs. This is an increase from the 2017 limit of $2,600.

If I don’t use my FSA dollars, will I lose them?

Yes, although you won’t necessarily lose all of the money you saved. Your employer has the option to let you carry over up to $500 of unused FSA money. Or, they can choose to give you a two-and-a-half month grace period, so you have more time to spend your FSA dollars. Check with your employer to see what options are available to you.

With the end of the year just around the corner, how can I spend my FSA dollars?

Many people use FSA money by making last-minute appointments to see a dentist or eye doctor. But, scheduling can be tricky as we get closer to year-end. Many other medical and health-related expenses are eligible. Here are a few ideas:

  • Online clinics:

    You can use FSA funds at our 24/7 online clinic, virtuwell helps with more than 60 conditions, including acne and birth control.
  • Medical supplies:

    Things like CPAP machines, breast pumps, hearing aid batteries and diabetes supplies are also eligible. Doctor-recommended items are available at our Park Nicollet Health & Care Stores. Items are available for purchase online, and at 7 locations across the metro. If you have any questions, you can contact our stores by phone at 952-993-0770.
  • Eye care:

    Stock up on contacts for the year, or get a new pair of glasses or even sunglasses. Eye exams and LASIK can also be eligible. Within our organization, eye care is available at HealthPartners and Park Nicollet.
  • Dental care:

    Take care of those teeth. Exams, crowns, cleanings and fillings are all eligible. HealthPartners has 19 convenient dental offices throughout the Twin Cities and in central Minnesota.
  • Health and well-being:

    Acupuncture and chiropractic care can sometimes be eligible expenses. There are chiropractors available at both HealthPartners and Park Nicollet clinics.

Is there anything that I can’t use my FSA dollars for?

Certain things, such as weight loss programs, cannot be paid with FSA dollars unless a doctor has specifically prescribed this for you. More information on eligible health care expenses is also available at

If you are a HealthPartners member, you can find more details on what you can spend your FSA dollars on by logging onto your HealthPartners online account. Or, you can call Member Services at the number on the back of your member ID card.

About Neil Chaffee, MPA

Neil Chaffee is a Senior Manager of Product Experience at HealthPartners. In his role, Neil makes sure our members have the tools, resources and support they need to best understand their health plan options. He’s spent more than 7 years on our team helping our members gain access to the best care for their individual needs and circumstances. In his free time, Neil enjoys spending time with family, staying active and enjoying the great outdoors.

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