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Consumer
Use flex spending account before years end
MADISON, Wis. (12/28/11)--Before you hang up your 2012 calendar or plan your new year's resolution, add this important task to the top of your end-of-year to-do list: Use up the rest of the money in your flexible spending account (FSA), or risk losing what's left come Jan. 1.

Draining your FSA is no longer as easy as it used to be. While you may have stocked up on over-the-counter (OTC) medication at the end of 2010 to zero out your fund, a new rule in the health-care reform act makes OTC drugs ineligible for reimbursement in 2011 (USA Today Dec. 19).

Despite this new rule, you have a few options for spending the rest of your funds. Some plans offer grace periods, allowing you to continue using your current funds until March 15 (Bankrate Nov. 22). Not all companies extend this option, so check with your human resources department or benefits office to see if yours does.

If you take certain OTC medications regularly, consider asking your doctor to write you a prescription for them. With a prescription, you can pay for items like pain relievers with your FSA.

Also remember that you still can use your FSA to buy many eligible items other than OTC medications at the drugstore. Examples include:

  • Sunscreens with at least SPF 30;
  • Bandages;
  • First-aid wraps;
  • First-aid kits;
  • Reading glasses;
  • Contact lens solution;
  • Contraceptives;
  • Pregnancy tests;
  • Vaccinations, such as flu shots;
  • Screening tools, such as blood-pressure monitors;
  • Carpal tunnel wrist supports; and
  • Medical thermometers.
 

Again, check your plan details before you hit the drugstore aisles.

For more information, read "Health-Care Reform Changes Flex-Spending Reimbursement Rules" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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