Last June, I loaded up my employer-sponsored Flexible Spending Account (FSA) with $1,400 of my pre-tax earnings in anticipation of a year full of doctor visits, eye exams, dentistry mishaps, and regular visits to my sports chiropractor. In previous years, I would typically have lots of little costs, as well as one big expenditure (a crown, custom running orthodics, or night-guard) that took a bigger chunk of the account and it would be all used up by the following June. Last year, it was gone a few months early and I ended up spending several hundred of my post-tax dollars on medical expenses. With all that in mind, I felt that $1,400 should be good to cover me for the 2014/15 year. But then I got laid off.
When I was notified in mid-December of my layoff, I had just over $1,000 remaining on the account! Since then, I’ve been chipping away in hopes of using every last cent by my termination date, which was originally February 17th. After recent discussions with my company’s HR personnel, we’ve come to an agreement that my new termination date will be March 1st, using 8 of my unused vacation days to get me there (remaining vacation will be paid out via check). That will lock in my full health insurance benefits through March 31st. This is particularly good, since a couple of the jobs I’m up for are freelance that may or may not have benefits immediately. Starting April 1st, I can begin Cobra coverage if needed.
Getting back to my FSA, I called the provider a few weeks ago and learned that my last opportunity to charge to the account and have access to the full annual amount is the day before my termination date. For the following 90 days, I can still use the account, but I will only have access to the actual amount I contributed to date. The way I see it, since I am legally permitted to use the full annual amount (even if I don’t make the last few months of payments due to my termination), I will do just that.
In January, I was able to do some damage to that $1,000 balance:
- Replaced the scratched lenses in my prescription sunglasses ($125)
- Visited the chiropractor three times ($135)
- Refilled a few prescriptions ($50)
- Visited my podiatrist ($20 copay for primary referral, $30 for specialist). The podiatrist visit was in hopes of getting new custom running orthodics, but since it has been just over two years since my previous pair (on which I ran a couple of marathons and hiked Kilimanjaro), they are totally covered by insurance! No FSA needed.
So now, I have three weeks to spend the remaining $650. The two biggest potentials for FSA spending are dentistry and glasses. My next dentist appointment is due in April, so I may just wait for that under Cobra or new job coverage. I’m due for my annual eye exam in March, so I will wait until then for the appointment. But before then, I will likely get a new pair of prescription sports sunglasses for my cycling and running. Since they won’t be covered by insurance, the optometrist will give me a discount, but they could still run me about $400. That’s an absurd amount of money for sunglasses, but I would rather pay too much for quality frames and lenses than lose out on the money all together.
I can also ask my podiatrist about a slimmer version of my orthodics that I can use in regular shoes. Although a pair of Superfeet insoles for casual wear work almost as well. Condoms and lube are also covered FSA expenses…hee hee! Might be time to stock up?!
(Image: Simon Greig)