Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are powerful tools that can help individuals and families manage their healthcare expenses more effectively. These tax-advantaged accounts offer significant benefits, including reduced taxable income and the ability to save for qualified medical expenses. But what can you actually spend your HSA or FSA funds on? In this article, we'll explore the wide range of eligible expenses you can use these accounts for and offer some tips on how to maximize their benefits.
Understanding HSAs and FSAs
Before we go into the list of eligible expenses, let's briefly understand what HSAs and FSAs are:
1. Health Savings Account (HSA): An HSA is a tax-advantaged savings account available to individuals covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). Contributions to an HSA are tax-deductible, and the funds can be used for qualified medical expenses, both current and future. HSA funds can be invested and grow over time, making them a valuable long-term savings tool. They are also portable, so if you change jobs or own your own business you will continue to have access to your account.
2. Flexible Spending Account (FSA): An FSA is an employer-sponsored account that allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible healthcare expenses. Unlike HSAs, FSAs typically do not allow funds to roll over from year to year, so it's important to use them before the end of the plan year or a grace period.
Eligible Expenses for HSA and FSA Funds
The money you withdraw from your HSA or FSA isn’t taxed if you use it for a qualified medical expense. The list of eligible expenses is set by the IRS and includes things like deductibles, copays, and coinsurance for medical, dental, and vision treatment. While you cannot use these funds to pay for your health insurance premiums, you may be able to use them for Medicare or other premiums (for those 65 and older), COBRA, or for long-term care insurance premiums. Additionally, there are some other things you can use HSA and FSA funds for that many don’t know about.
Regular and ongoing medical care expenses can be covered using HSA or FSA funds. Physical exams, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and some durable medical equipment and supplies are eligible.
- Doctor’s visits (checkups, specialist visits, outpatient treatments and even surgical expenses)
- Prescription Medications (over the counter medications can be eligible if your qualified medical provider prescribes them)
- Ambulance services
- Laboratory tests
- Hospital care
- Imaging (x-rays, MRI, etc.)
- Hearing aids and batteries
- Wheelchairs, walkers, and other durable medical equipment
- Birth control (pills, devices, and condoms)
- Mental Health Care (therapy, inpatient or outpatient drug or alcohol treatment, smoking cessation programs, etc.)
- Alternative medicine like acupuncture or chiropractic care
Use your HSA or FSA funds to cover regular dental care such as cleanings, exams, and x-rays. Even surgery, dentures, and braces are eligible for HSA or FSA funding.
- Cleanings and check-ups
- Crowns and bridges
- Dental surgery
Eye care can be covered by your HSA or FSA funds.
- Prescription glasses or contact lenses
- Eye drops
- Prescription sunglasses
- Vision plan copays and deductibles
- LASIK eye surgery
Other surprising Expenses Covered by HSA or FSA
- Over-the-counter medications and menstrual products
- You can pay for over-the-counter medications even if they have not been recommended by a doctor. You can also use HSA or FSA funds to buy menstrual care products including tampons, pads, and liners.
- Postpartum care
- You can use funds to cover breastfeeding supplies, such as breast pumps or nursing bras. However, other maternity clothing is not eligible.
- Use HSA or FSA funds to buy sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
- Travel for Medical Care
- If you must go out of town for medical care, you can use your HSA or FSA to cover $50 per night per eligible person. That means if you are traveling with your sick child for treatment, you can get reimbursed up to $100 per night. The purpose of the trip must be for medical services only.
- Your HSA or FSA funds can cover the cost of transportation essential to seeking medical care. You can use funds to cover ambulance charges, buses, car rental costs, planes, car service, or trains.
- If you are traveling in your own vehicle, you can keep up with your expenses to submit for reimbursement or use the government’s rate of $0.22 per mile (https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/standard-mileage-rates). You can also add parking fees and tolls to your reimbursement claim.
- Home Improvements
- You can use HSA or FSA funds to cover the cost of home improvements specifically for medical care (also known as environmental modifications). This might look like building a ramp, widening doorways, or installing handrails.
What can’t you use an HSA or FSA for?
It is important to know which expenses are not qualified because if you spend HSA or FSA funds on ineligible expenses, you may be required to pay fees or have tax consequences.
Some things may seem like a medical expense but might not actually be eligible for these funds. Here are some examples:
- Babysitting or childcare
- Dance or swim lessons (even if your doctor recommends it)
- Gym membership
- Elective cosmetic procedures (tummy tucks, hair transplants, etc.)
- Funeral costs
- Teeth whitening
Tips for Maximizing Your HSA and FSA Benefits
1. Keep Records: Maintain detailed records of your eligible expenses, including receipts and explanations of benefits (EOBs), to substantiate your claims if audited.
2. Plan Ahead: Estimate your anticipated medical expenses for the year and contribute accordingly to your HSA or FSA. Be mindful of the "use it or lose it" rule for FSAs.
3. Review Your Plan: Familiarize yourself with your specific HSA or FSA plan rules, as they may vary by employer or financial institution.
4. Invest Wisely (HSA): If your HSA allows investments, consider investing your funds for potential long-term growth.
HSAs and FSAs are valuable tools for managing healthcare expenses while enjoying tax benefits. Understanding what you can spend your HSA or FSA funds on is crucial to making the most of these accounts. By utilizing eligible expenses wisely and adhering to the rules of your specific account, you can take control of your healthcare finances and improve your overall financial well-being. Always consult with a tax advisor or benefits specialist to ensure compliance with current regulations and maximize your HSA and FSA benefits.