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11 surprising things you can buy with your HSA or FSA dollars

Person checking their medical expense account

Medical expense accounts can help you save on all kinds of health care costs. Here are some you may not know about yet.

Imagine you have a little pot of money you can dip into anytime health costs pop up. Unplanned charges might feel a lot less stressful, right? Well, a health care flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) can be that source of funding.

What is an FSA or HSA? They’re both types of health accounts that let you save part of your salary to pay for medical costs your health plan doesn’t cover. And you don’t have to pay taxes on the money you put into the account.1 Employers may offer an FSA. HSAs are available only to people with a high-deductible health plan. 

You usually sign up for these accounts during open enrollment. If you don't know if you have one, be sure to check.

So what can you buy with your FSA or HSA money? You can use it to pay for common health care expenses such as copayments, prescription medications and medical supplies. But many other approved products and services are eligible, too. They’re called qualified medical expenses. If you have an FSA, you’ll want to make sure you know all your options. That’s because with many plans, you generally have only a year to spend the money you’ve set aside. If not, you lose it. That’s not the case with an HSA. You can use it at any time, and the funds never expire.

Now, let’s get to the spending. You can usually use your FSA or HSA funds to pay for the following items and services. But some employers set different rules. And some FSAs are limited to dental and vision care. So be sure to check your plan documents before you buy.

1. Over-the-counter medications and menstrual products

You can use the money in your accounts for over-the-counter medications. That’s true even if they haven’t been recommended by a doctor. You can also use FSA and HSA funds to buy menstrual care products. Those include tampons, pads and liners.2

2. Birth control pills, condoms and erectile dysfunction medications

You can use your FSA or HSA funds to pay for birth control pills and condoms. You can also use them for erectile dysfunction (ED) medications like Viagra®. (You can get online prescriptions for contraception and ED from the Optum Store. They’ll be delivered discreetly to your door. Just click the links.)

3. Breast pumps and more

Health plans cover breast pumps and supplies. But if you want a different model than the one offered, you can use your FSA or HSA funds to buy the one you’d like. You can also use your existing funds if you don’t have insurance at the time. But you can’t include the cost of extra bottles for milk storage.

The money can also help you pay for artificial breasts (prostheses) or breast reconstruction surgery after cancer or another health problem.

But if you’re just looking for breast augmentation surgery, you’ll have to pay out of pocket. Cosmetic services don’t qualify.

4. Sunscreen

If you buy sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, you can pay for it with your FSA or HSA account. That’s a smart move, since SPF 15+ sunscreen can help lower your risk of skin cancer.

Father and toddler son shopping for health essentials online
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Optum Store has the products you love at everyday low prices. Use your HSA/FSA dollars to save even more.

5. Eyeglasses and contacts

You can use your FSA or HSA money to pay for prescription eyeglasses or readers. Prescription sunglasses are eligible, too. You can also use the accounts to buy contact lenses and contact lens solution.

6. Travel for medical care

If you must travel out of town for medical care, you can use your HSA/FSA funds to cover $50 per night per person. That could equal $100 per night if you’re traveling with your sick child. But the purpose of the trip must be for medical services.

You can’t count your beach vacation just because you got a flu shot at the local pharmacy. You also can’t count a getaway you’re taking for your physical or mental well-being. That’s true even if your doctor said you really need a vacation.

7. Transportation

You can use your HSA/FSA money to cover the cost of local and long-distance transportation. Again, it must be for transportation that’s essential for the care.

Transportation costs include tickets for:

  • Ambulance charges
  • Buses
  • Car rental costs
  • Planes
  • Car service
  • Trains

If you’re driving your own car, you can add up your expenses. Or you can use the government’s rate of $0.18 per mile.3 Whichever method you choose, you can add parking fees and tolls as well.

8. Medical conferences

You can use your HSA or FSA funds to pay for admission and transportation to a medical conference related to a chronic illness. The person with the disease can be you, your spouse, your child or another eligible dependent. But you can’t count the cost of meals and hotels while you’re there.

9. Home improvements

No, you can’t pay for a new kitchen with your FSA or HSA money. But you can use it for the cost of home improvements if the purpose is medical care. That care can be for you, your spouse, your child or another eligible dependent.

Examples of medical-related home improvements include:

  • Building an entrance ramp
  • Widening doorways or hallways
  • Installing handrails
  • Modifying door handles

You can also count the costs related to using and updating these home improvements.

10. Weight-loss programs

You can use your FSA or HSA to pay for a weight-loss program in some cases. For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease, you may be able to use those funds.

What’s not covered? Your gym fees or food.

11. Alcohol or drug treatment

If you need treatment at a hospital for alcohol or drug abuse, you can cover those costs with your FSA or HSA. That includes meals and a treatment center stay. You can also include rides to and from meetings for groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Have health care expenses that didn’t make our list? They could still be eligible. To find others, use the Optum Financial qualified medical expense tool.

SOURCES

  1. Internal Revenue Service. Health savings accounts and other tax-favored health plans. Accessed June 20, 2022.
  2. Internal Revenue Service. IRS outlines changes to health care spending available under CARES Act. June 17, 2020. Accessed June 20, 2022.
  3. Internal Revenue Service. IRS issues standard mileage rates for 2022. December 17, 2021. Accessed June 20, 2022.

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