Do you have a flexible spending account (FSA) through your employer? If you aren’t already taking advantage of this benefit, you may want to consider enrolling. FSAs can be a great way to reduce your taxes by allowing you to use pre-tax dollars for approved medical expenses. And if your doctor recommends that you lose weight in order to improve a medical condition, you may be able to use your FSA funds for a weight-loss program or other related expenses.
What is a flexible spending account?
A flexible spending account allows you to deduct pre-tax money from your paycheck to be used for certain medical expenses, such as copays and prescription medications. The specific expenses allowed under each plan may vary. If you have questions about what is covered under your plan, ask your company’s HR department for a list of approved expenses. The list of expenses approved by the IRS has been restricted over the past several years, so it’s always a good idea to check before submitting your expenses for reimbursement. For example, over-the-counter medications such as aspirin used to be covered, but now must be accompanied by a prescription. Optional health expenses such as gym memberships or supplements are also not covered.
In many cases, FSA funds must be used before the end of the calendar year or they are forfeited. In 2012, the government gave employers the ability to let employees carry up to $500 from their FSAs over into the next calendar year. Employers can also give their employees a grace period of up to two and a half months to use any remaining funds. However, neither of these provisions is required, and employers are allowed to offer only one of them. Make sure you understand the terms of your company FSA so that you don’t risk losing any of your money.
How can I use FSA funds to pay for a weight-loss program?
Some FSA plans will cover weight-loss programs as long as they meet specific requirements. Federal law states that the weight-loss program must be recommended by a licensed physician to treat a specific medical condition. For example, if you have diabetes and your doctor wants you to lose weight to help control your blood sugar, it may qualify. Your doctor would need to write a letter stating why the weight-loss program is medically necessary. Then, you would need to submit this letter along with your receipt for your program fees in order to be reimbursed for the expense.
If you do not need to lose weight to help treat a medical condition, the expense may not be covered by your FSA. However, even if you’re not sure about your FSA requirements, or if it’s unclear whether the expense is allowed, talk to your doctor. Your physician may be able to identify a weight-related health condition that could warrant a letter of medical necessity.
Even if you are unable to use FSA funds for your weight-loss programs, you may be able to receive reimbursement for other related expenses. For example, acupuncture has been shown to aid in weight-loss endeavors as it may help reduce inflammation and control hunger. Acupuncture is often used to treat ailments such as chronic pain, depression, addiction, and symptoms of cancer treatments, and may be considered an allowable expense under some FSA plans.
Similarly, chiropractic care may be covered by your FSA. Though not directly related to weight loss, chiropractic treatment may help alleviate back pain or other ailments that interfere with your ability to exercise on a regular basis, thus supporting your efforts to lose weight.
When can I enroll for an FSA?
You cannot enroll for an FSA plan in the middle of the year. You must sign up for your company’s FSA during open enrollment — at the same time you enroll in your insurance plan for the coming year — and determine at that time how much money you want to withhold for medical expenses. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead for any elective medical expenses. For example, if you’re thinking about getting LASIK surgery, schedule it for next year and set aside extra money in your FSA to pay for it.
Are you ready to take control of your health? At Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers, our medically supervised weight-loss programs are custom-tailored to help address your biggest health challenges and meet your goals. Contact us today for your no-cost consultation!