It’s officially summer, meaning it’s time to grill, plan a getaway, enjoy the outdoors, and make sure we have all the summer essentials we’ll need. That can mean buying new sunglasses, sunscreen, and lots of other items.
If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), you can pay for many of those expenses using tax-free funds.
This can be a great option if you’re worried about paying for summer costs and/or if you have an FSA with a use-it-or-lose-it rule – where the account balance will not roll over from one plan year to the next – and you don’t want to scramble at the end of the year to use the funds.
Check out the list below of items covered by an FSA to help you make the most of summer and your account.
When someone mentions summer, do you think about sandy beaches? Clear skies? Relaxing with your sunglasses on?
Then you’re in luck. Prescription sunglasses are an FSA-eligible expense, so that unofficial symbol of summer can be paid for using tax-free dollars.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun have been linked to medical conditions including cataracts, corneal sunburn, skin cancer around the eyes, and macular degeneration – a leading cause of vision loss among seniors.
Prescription sunglasses that block most or all of UV-A and UV-B radiation thus offer a variety of health benefits.
Keep in mind that the coating that blocks UV rays is clear, so darker lenses aren’t necessarily more effective.
While on the subject of eyewear, the prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, or nonprescription reading glasses you might need in order to – among other things – read on the beach or poolside can be covered by your flexible spending account as well.
The eye exam with your optometrist or other medical professional you’ll need in order to get your prescription is an eligible expense, too.
FSA funds can also be used for contact accessories like cleaning solution and lens cases, as well as many accessories used to repair or maintain prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses. Some examples include eyeglass repair kits, lens cleaning solutions, lens cloths, eyeglass cords, and nose pad replacements.
And contact lenses used only to change your eye color are also ineligible since they are used solely for cosmetic purposes.
Not to be a downer while talking about summer, but did you know that a person’s risk of developing melanoma doubles if he/she has had more than five sunburns?
The good news is that using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen on a daily basis reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent, as noted by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Fortunately, sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher and protects against UV-A and UV-B radiation is FSA eligible.
Those same guidelines apply to a wide variety of sunscreens on the market, including children’s sunscreen, sunscreen for babies, travel-sized sunscreen, and water-resistant sunscreen, so you can use your flexible spending account to help protect all members of the family during a variety of outdoor activities.
(Keep in mind though that doctors recommend that you keep babies younger than six months old out of the sun due to their sensitive skin.)
When you’re checking to make sure you didn’t miss a spot, don’t forget the lips. Lip balm with an SPF of 15 or greater can protect your lips from sun exposure and is an eligible expense as well.
Finally, while you can’t use your FSA to buy bug spray, sunscreen that includes insect repellent is FSA eligible as long as it is SPF 15 or greater and the primary purpose of the product is to protect you from the sun.
Take that, mosquitos!
Did you forget to reapply your sunscreen?
If the sun’s ultraviolet rays have your skin looking red and feeling hot (in a bad way), you may want to seek out aloe vera creams and gels, calamine lotion, or other sunburn creams or ointments of choice.
While these are generally over-the-counter products, these items become FSA eligible expenses with a prescription from your doctor.
Ahhh, the grill. If you have a hard time not overdoing it on burgers, hot dogs, chicken, steaks, grilled corn, and all the other delicious BBQ fare – and who could blame you – finding heartburn relief may suddenly become a priority not too long after the grill cools down.
Per the guidelines in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), many common over-the-counter products – including antacids – are eligible for FSA reimbursement if you have a prescription from your physician.
So if you anticipate needing antacids this summer, you may want to get a prescription for an acid controller in advance.
Maybe the open waters and gentle sea breezes are calling to you this summer, with a quaint fishing trip, a cruise vacation, or water sports on your to-do list. Maybe a flight or winding car ride is a prerequisite to get to your vacation destination.
And… maybe that means motion sickness has the potential to ruin your good time.
You aren’t alone. Research has found about 33% of people are susceptible to motion sickness even in mild circumstances such as being on a boat in calm water, and nearly 66% of people are susceptible in more severe conditions.
Your FSA can be used to buy a variety of motion sickness treatments.
Taking in the sights in your vacation town of choice, covering lots of ground at a theme park, and/or hiking new trails can leave your feet in desperate need of support.
If you anticipate dramatically increasing your walking, jogging, or running this summer, you may want to use your FSA funds to pick up shoe insoles, inserts and/or cushioning products.
While on the subject of cardio, one of the most common questions asked about eligible expenses is: Can I buy a Fitbit with my FSA?
Unfortunately, a Fitbit, Nike FuelBand, and other fitness trackers are not typically covered by an FSA.
However, a physician will sometimes provide a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) for these devices to help treat obesity and other medical conditions, in which case you may be able to use your FSA to pay for this expense.
If you believe you may have a qualifying condition, you can talk to your doctor about a LMN, which must detail the medical condition necessitating the fitness device and how that device will help alleviate the issue.
That LMN would then need to be provided to your benefits administrator for review.
Families enjoying the great outdoors and active summer vacations can mean an uptick in cuts, scrapes, bruises, bug bites, poison ivy, rashes, and many other ailments.
While you can’t prepare for everything, you can be more prepared by making sure you have a pre-made first aid kit and you’re stocked up on bandages, tape, gauze, wound care items, insect bite cream, and ice packs – all of which are eligible for FSA reimbursement.
Canes, crutches, and support braces are also eligible.
So there you have it. Prescription sunglasses, sunscreen, and many other items you may need this summer can be covered by an FSA.
Now maybe you won’t have to “sweat” those costs, allowing you to focus on enjoying everything this season has to offer.
What do you think? Will you be using your FSA to pay for any summer expenses? Let us know on Twitter via @ConnectYourCare.