If you use a health spending account to pay for Tylenol or allergy medicine, you may be in for a shock starting in January 2011.
Among the changes the new health care bill will bring in the New Year: You won't be able to use your HSA or FSA card anymore for some very common medicines.
Say Goodbye to Dec 31 stock-up
It's become a year end tradition for many families: stock up on Tylenol and Motrin to use up money in your Flex Spending Account, which gives you a discount on over the counter medicine.
But as of December 31st, that tradition is no more.
Pharmacist Aimee Hart has been sharing the bad news with her customers. She told me, "starting in January 2010, the government has now decided you cannot use those things on your HSA card or Flexible Spending Card."
Many Items Now Prohibited
Aimee has been telling her unhappy customers that many OTC items will no longer qualify for these pre tax purchases on HSA and FSA cards. Among them:
Aimee worries this is going to be a real issue for people who need allergy or indigestion pills every month. She said "we have a lot of people who do use over the counter allergy medications, because many are now non prescription, they have been released over the counter."
It's part of the new health care program: To pay for some features, the government is pulling some others, like being able to buy OTC drugs with pre tax dollars. This frees up millions of tax dollars to cover other parts of the program.
Prescription drugs will still be ok, so you can get around this in some cases by asking your doctor for a prescription strength version of Zantac, for instance, or a prescription pain killer.
There are also some cases where a doctor can write a note calling the item a medical "necessity," which may allow you to put it on your HSA or FSA card.
More Problems for FSA's than HSA's
If you have an HSA account, you can simply roll your money over to next year, and use it for doctor bills.
But with FSA's, Flex Spending Accounts, money cannot be rolled over. So Aimee says "use it or lose it. We would suggest you stock up on what you can, to max out on those dollars."
Bottom line: if this is a real concern, speak with your doctor. He may be able to give you a prescription for a behind-the-counter version, so you can continue to use your card, and so you don't waste your money.
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