Health Care Insurance Update: What Will and Won’t Be Eligible for FSA Reimbursement in 2011

As in any other year, you have until December 31 to use up whatever balance (or spending declaration) you have in your Flexible Spending Account. Unlike Health Savings Accounts, FSA balances do not roll over into the next year. Some companies do provide a grace period that will extend into 2011, so check with your employer’s FSA plan administrator to see if that applies to you.  But be aware that changes have been made regarding eligible expenditures that will take effect immediately on the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve. The most notable is that, thanks to the health care reform act (aka ObamaCare), over-the-counter medications will no longer be eligible expenses UNLESS you have a doctor’s prescription saying you need them. This change also applies to Health Savings Account eligible expenses. 


As of January 1, 2011, you’ll need a customer receipt identifying by name you or the person for whom the prescription was written. It will need to show the date and amount of purchase along with the RX number. Good luck trying to get that from your corner convenience store clerk when you run in for cough syrup at 2 in the morning! 


If you routinely used non-prescription allergy medications, antacids and similar OTC health care products like those in the partial list below, now would be a great time to use your FSA balance to stockpile supplies.  Moving forward, your best strategy may be to make a list of stuff you use on a regular basis and get a single prescription. However, you should check with your FSA plan administrator to make sure this is acceptable. 


  •  Acne preparations
  •  Allergy, sinus and decongestant medications
  • Antacids and antigas preparations
  • Anti-diarrheals
  • Anti-fungal medicine
  • Aspirin and pain relievers
  • Cough, cold and flu medicine
  • Diaper rash creams
  • Hemorrhoid preparations
  • Laxatives
  • Sleeping pills 
  • Suppositories
  • Yeast Infection creams

Certain eligible medications that used to just require a letter of necessity will now also require a prescription. These include calcium and other vitamin and mineral supplements, herbal and homeopathic remedies, hormone therapy and humidifiers. This list is not comprehensive.

Here’s a short list of products that will still be eligible for  reimbursement without a prescription after January 1, 2011: 

  • Adult diapers and similar incontinence products
  • Bandages
  • Blood pressure monitors
  • Cholesterol monitors
  • Condoms and other OTC birth control products
  • Contact lens care products
  • Crutches
  • Denture care products
  • Diabetic supplies including insulin
  • Ear care products 
  • First aid supplies
  • Hearing aid batteries
  • Heating pads, wraps and hot water bottles
  • HIV monitors
  • Thermometers
  • Therapeutic supports and braces


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