Although most of the health-care-reform law's changes won't take
effect until 2014, new rules that start on January 1 expand who is
eligible for health-insurance coverage, restrict which costs
qualify for flexible spending account reimbursement, and open the
door to free preventive care.
Enlist your doctor's help.
Starting in 2011, you can no longer use pretax money from an
employer's FSA to pay for over-the-counter drugs (except insulin).
But these medications still qualify for reimbursement from your FSA
if you submit a prescription with your receipt. Ask your doctor to
write a prescription for the over-the-counter drugs that you use
frequently. Items such as hearing-aid batteries, diabetes supplies
and contact-lens solutions are still eligible and do not require a
Use FSA money for grown kids.
Many employers will allow you to use FSA funds to pay for
out-of-pocket medical expenses (except health-insurance premiums)
for a grown child up to age 27, even if he or she is no longer your
dependent. Ask your employer about your FSA's rules.
Plan ahead for elective procedures.
Some employers currently allow employees to contribute up to $5,000
each year in pretax money to their FSAs. But that limit will shrink
to $2,500 in 2013. Consider scheduling costly elective medical
procedures that aren't covered by insurance (such as laser eye
surgery and major dental work) in early 2012 so that you can double
up your available FSA funds.
Assuming your employer gives you a grace period until March 15
to use or lose FSA funds from the previous year, you would be able
to use any money left over from 2011 plus your full FSA allocation
for 2012 to cover medical expenses incurred during the first two
and a half months of 2012. (You can use the same strategy to
combine leftover 2010 FSA funds with 2011 set-asides for medical
expenses incurred by March 15, 2011.)
Schedule free preventive care.
Many insurance plans must now provide certain preventive-care
screenings without charging deductibles or co-payments. This rule
may apply to blood-pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests,
mammograms and colonoscopies, flu shots, routine vaccines, and
well-baby and well-child visits. Go to
Medicare beneficiaries also get an expanded roster of free
preventive benefits, including an annual wellness visit and
personalized prevention plan. Medicare will no longer charge
co-pays or deductibles for mammograms, prostate-cancer screenings
and colonoscopies (go to the
Manage Your Health
section of Medicare.gov for details).