Local News

Flexible spending account changes go into effect Saturday

Posted December 29, 2010 6:50 a.m. EST
Updated December 29, 2010 2:57 p.m. EST

— Beginning Saturday, people with flexible spending accounts will not be able to buy approximately 15,000 medications that they’re currently allowed to purchase.

Flexible Spending Accounts: What is and is not eligible

Flexible spending accounts allow people to set aside pre-taxed money, mainly to be used for medical expenses. Under the national health care reform law, however, medications bought over-the-counter – like allergy medication, pain relief pills and antacids – won't be covered unless purchased with a doctor's prescription. The only exception is insulin – which will not require a prescription. 

Items used for health and well-being that are not medicines – like bandages and nasal strips – still qualify as FSA spending and will not require a prescription.

Financial journalist Vera Gibbons, who blogs for WalletPop.com, advises people to load up on over-the-counter medications, buy glasses and other items now. If any money is left in this year’s account, those people will lose it.

Another change is coming in 2013, when employees will be limited to $2,500 in a flexible spending account each year. Most employers currently allow up to $5,000 in an employee's account.

The IRS estimates more than 33 million Americans own some version of a tax-exempt medical account.