Coronavirus Means Big Changes for FSA and HSA Accounts

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Over-the-counter drugs in store
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Do you have a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) where you’re stashing money tax-free to help pay for medical expenses?

If so, there are some recent changes to the rules around spending that money that you need to know about.

New Rules Give More Flexibility to FSA and HSA Funds

Thanks to provisions in the CARES Act — a federal law passed in March 2020 to help give people relief in the wake of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic — your FSA and HSA dollars are now a little bit easier to spend.

The new rules essentially mean you no longer need a doctor’s prescription to use those accounts to buy certain over-the-counter medications. You can also use those funds to purchase feminine hygiene products.

Here’s a partial list of items you can now use FSA and HSA funds to buy without a prescription, according to CVS:

  • Pain relievers like Tylenol and Advil
  • Allergy medications like Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra
  • Cold & flu medicine like Mucinex and Nyquil

And the CARES Act specifically mentions these feminine products as being eligible:

  • Tampons
  • Pads
  • Liners
  • Cups
  • Sponges
  • “Other similar products with respect to menstruation”

To take full advantage of the new rules, you’ll want to do a few things:

1. According to the provisions in the CARES Act, the changes are retroactive to January 1, 2020. That means that if you’ve bought any of these products this year and still have the receipts, you can likely be reimbursed. You’ll just need to submit the proper forms to your plan administrator.

2. Likewise, going forward, if you buy these products using your FSA or HSA card, make sure to save your receipts in case there’s any question about the eligibility of your purchases. If you’re required to submit receipts for reimbursement, keep them all in a file and remember to claim that money periodically.

3. Take a look at how you’re funding your FSA or HSA account. If you hadn’t factored in over-the-counter medications or feminine products into how much you’re saving, you might want to increase your contributions.

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4. Remember that FSA funds are “use-it-or-lose-it,” meaning any money you don’t spend in a calendar year is forfeited. Make sure you maximize your contributions, which might mean doing a little planning. If you find yourself with a surplus near the end of 2020, consider stocking up on allowable purchases so that money doesn’t go to waste.

Remember, this is money you earned and can save tax-free — don’t let this new opportunity go to waste!


Have more questions about the new FSA and HSA rules or anything else consumer-related? While we can’t currently accept phone calls to our Consumer Action Center helpline, we can still answer your money questions! Visit clark.com/cac to submit your question and a Consumer Action Center volunteer will call you as soon as possible.


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