Typically, about this time of year, we’d send out some tips to stay healthy and provide some guidance for encouraging employees to use health savings accounts (HSA) or flexible spending accounts (FSA) to combat the winter sniffles.
But nothing has been typical since March of 2020.
Scientists are still uncovering where the flu has gone. With decreased international travel and increased mask-wearing around the world, positive tests for flu have plummeted 98% in the U.S. this winter. However, it’s always a good idea to get employees thinking about stocking up for sniffles and well, you know, that other virus in the news.
Using those Tax-Advantaged Accounts...
Many FSA and HSA participants start the year confused because they simply don’t understand how and when to spend their funds. While they might know that they can use funds for doctor or dentist visits, many do not understand the depth of the eligible expense list. Further, even if you have a good portion of employees who have elected a tax-advantaged account, you likely have a majority who aren’t aware of the benefit and never sign up. Some may think they cannot afford to set aside the funds, while others just are not yet aware of the savings they could realize.
The latest Bureau of Labor consumer spending statistics show that the average American spends up to 6% of their salary on expenses, such as prescription drugs, medical services, health insurance and medical supplies – with out-of-pocket expenses (not insurance) totaling to about $1,600 per person on average. Using a modest tax rate of 22% (based on the average salary from the Bureau of Labor), that average American could save about $350 per year on those out-of-pocket expenses if they could access and use a tax-free account, like an FSA or HSA. When every penny counts and the cost of insurance continually rising, any chance to save should be considered.
(Side note: Here’s where we encourage you to investigate offering that FSA, HSA or even HRA to support your workforce. You can reduce FICA taxes while your employees can save $$$.)
…for making healthy purchases
Now, back to those eligible expenses. It’s a good time to remind employees that they can stock up on items to support their health and well-being throughout the winter months. These virus-preparedness items are considered eligible items with an FSA or HSA:
- Heating pads, hot/cold compresses
- Over-the-counter cough medicine
- Over-the-counter pain medicine
- Pulse oximeter
- Steam Inhaler
- Zinc-based cold remedies
- Sinus/congestion medicines
- Nebulizer parts and prescriptions
- Some electrolyte-replenishment drinks
The FSA Store and HSA Store offer a great way to make these kinds of items accessible, with the added peace of mind that all items are eligible and all of their medicines and supplies are verified/authorized from the manufacturers. No matter where your employees get their supplies, now’s a good time to reach out and make sure they know how to use their consumer accounts to stay healthy.
While we’re on the topic, while the IRS provided for two new categories of eligible expenses with the CARES Act last year—over-the-counter treatments and feminine hygiene items—they have not yet classified personal protective equipment (PPE) as FSA/HSA-eligible items. If you’d like to add your name to a petition to help that cause, sign here.
Keeping your workforce healthy and prepared has become goal #1 for nearly every HR professional in the last 10 months. Help your employees with consumer accounts make the most of every dollar and remind them to use their funds as needed to be ready for the winter and beyond.
Check out our e-book To Contribute or Not to Contribute: Getting Employees to Take Advantage of Health Care FSAs or visit our consumer accounts resources site.