Remember the Nickelodeon Super Toy Run? That contest from the 80s where a sweepstakes-winning kid got to run through a toy store with a shopping cart for five feverish minutes and keep everything he could knock off the shelves?
That’s what came to mind earlier this month when I got a letter from our benefits department informing me I had extra money left in my Flexible Spending Account. I had a chunk of change, and if I didn’t use it by the end of the year, I was going to lose it. I started dreaming about a pharmacy version of that shopping spree, only with Tylenol and NyQuil instead of Pogo Balls and Cabbage Patch Kids.
I know. It’s silly. It’s my money, and it was dumb of me to put too much aside. But still. BAND-AIDs!
Then I remembered that some changes went into effect in 2011 that changed the eligibility of some of the items. Now, instead of just submitting a detailed receipt with your reimbursement forms, some expenses require an accompanying Letter of Medical Necessity or a doctor’s prescription.
OK, so that knocks NyQuil and Tylenol out of the equation, along with most other things I might actually use. (Though BAND-AIDs would still be OK).
So then I had this other brilliant idea. I may not need a walker, a cane, hearing aid batteries, magnifying eyeglasses or any of the other fun stuff that’s still eligible without extra documentation, but plenty of people do. I thought it would be a great idea to do an end-of-the-year drive where people could use their leftover flex spending dollars to buy things like adult diapers, first-aid kits and breast pumps and donate them to individuals or organizations that need them.
But my hopes were dashed when I found out that’s legally a no-no, because the items are only supposed to be used by you or your dependents.
So I talked to some HR experts and checked in with FSAstore.com – that’s a website that sells nothing but FSA-eligible products. If you’ve got leftovers, here’s what they recommend:
• Talk to your company’s benefits department. Employers are now able to offer either a 75-day grace period or the option to roll over $500 in flex spending dollars to be used the next year. Or your company can choose not to offer either of those options. Your HR peeps will set you straight.
• Start calling your doctors and begging to make last-minute appointments. This is a stretch, because there is less than a week left in the year. But you never know when someone might make a cancellation.
Our dentist got my husband in last week for a full cleaning and even some fillings! And we have until March to submit the receipts and get reimbursed, since the actual work was done before our deadline.
• Try accupuncture. Yep, it’s covered under many plans (just check first).
• Get a flu shot. Make your spouse get one, too.
You can walk into just about any pharmacy and get a flu shot on the spot. Flu shots are an eligible expense and don’t require any extra documentation. Easy peasy.
• Visit FSAstore.com. You can search products by eligibility, by category, and there is also a breakdown showing what items do and do not require a doctor’s prescription or letter.
Once you start surfing around, you’ll find items you never thought of: high SPF lip balms, contact lens solution, baby thermometers. It’s not the super toy run, but it’s still some pretty fun shopping.
I had a chunk of change, and if I didn’t use it by the end of the year, I was going to lose it.