Changes coming for flex spending accounts

December 30, 2010 4:26:35 PM PST
Time is running out for you to use the money in your flexible spending health care accounts for this year. And next year, get ready to see changes in plans across the board. Some flexible spending accounts have a grace period, so you do not have to use up the money by the end of the year, but even grace periods will not save you from a hard deadline when it comes to certain kinds of medications.

Flexible spending accounts are often used to buy over-the-counter medications, but on January 1, 2011, that comes to an end.

Dr. Sherman Yeager with West U Wellness explained, "You will no longer be able to go into the local drug stores or pharmacies and buy over-the-counter medications put that on the flexible spending account cards because they have that cut that out."

The changes are part of the Affordable Care Act and under the new standard, over-the-counter drugs are no longer eligible for reimbursement beginning January 1. Consumers who plan to use what is left over in their flex accounts for pain relievers or allergy medicine have until midnight Friday to buy the products.

Dr. Yeager said, "So basically now you will have to have prescriptions for your medications from the doctor and they will then be covered by flexible spending."

There are still plenty of items covered by flex spending accounts. They include bandages and contact lens solution. Typically the end of the year sparks a spending spree for those with flex spending plans and this year is no different.

Dr. Brad Owens at Vision Optique said, "Flex spending this year is at seemingly an all time high. We have had, over the past two weeks, patients who have passed through the office who have had a lot of flex spending dollars to get rid of."

The reason, according to Houston optometrist Brad Owens, is that the economy in 2010 may have played a part in flex spending budgeting this year.

"This year with the economy, more folks hung on to their dollars longer and those with flex accounts who have hung to them now to the last minute have to get rid of them or they lose them," Dr. Owens said.

If your flex spending account has a grace period, you can still use those dollars in 2011, but not for over-the-counter medication, unless of course you get a doctor's prescription for them, but you may have to pay for an office visit.


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