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Here’s when tapping into your health savings account (HSA) is a smart move for your eye care — and your wallet.
Putting pretax money into a health savings account (HSA) is a popular way to ease the pain of paying out-of-pocket for health care, including eye care.
The money can be invested and earn interest—also tax-free—and be used for not-yet-known medical expenses. And because you own the account (not your employer), the funds stay with you if you change jobs.
Unlike its cousin, the flexible spending account (FSA), an HSA has more long-term benefits.
Also, there isn’t the dreaded “use it or lose it” requirement to zero out the account by December 31 or forfeit your money. (For the one key exception, see “When Your HSA Comes with a Deadline” below).
Even so, there are solid reasons to tap into your account now for your eye care needs. Here are four such situations.
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Use Your HSA When: You’re Due for an Eye Exam
Even though people with extra cash on hand often use an HSA to sock away money for future health care needs, HSAs are designed to give you a tax break on current medical expenses, says Adam Beck, an expert on employer-based health insurance policies who is with the industry association America’s Health Insurance Plans.
An eye exam is an investment in your overall health, says Stephanie Zielenkievicz, manager of operations at National Vision, Inc., the parent company of America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses. Not only will you find out if you need new glasses or an updated prescription, she says, but regular eye exams are also the best way to catch certain eye conditions early on.
A vision check can tip you off to other hidden health problems too, like high blood pressure or diabetes.
Use Your HSA When: It’s Time for New Frames or Contacts
Even if your prescription is up to date, HSA money is one of the few ways to spend tax-free money on the latest fashion trends. You might want to pick up contact lenses so you can go frameless or get a fun pair of frames for weekend wear.
It’s also good to think practically and buy a spare pair of glasses for those days when you don’t have time to go searching for lost ones. At a minimum, says Zielenkievicz, you’ll have a backup pair and no longer have to worry about the state of your one and only set of frames.
Use Your HSA When: You Need to Treat an Eye Condition
The drops or ointments your optometrist prescribes for an eye infection or to relieve dry eye symptoms are a legit HSA expense. Things like cataract surgery and eye pressure monitors for people with a damaged optic nerve due to glaucoma are also covered.
Using HSA funds to take care of the health of your eyes can save you a lot of cash, says Beck.
When Your HSA Comes with a Deadline
If you’ve combined an HSA with what’s known as a limited-purpose FSA (LPFSA), you do need to put a big red circle around December 31 on your calendar as a reminder to spend that money.
Smaller in scope than regular FSAs, an LPFSA lets you use pretax money (up to $2,850) for vision and dental expenses only. They’re a good option if you’re trying to hold onto HSA funds for major medical expenses or for your medical needs in retirement and know that you’ll need replacement contact lenses or to upgrade an eyeglass prescription.
As the name implies, LPFSAs don’t cover a whole lot. Some only pick up the cost of eye exams, contact lenses, and prescription glasses, for example. Before you head to the shop to use your leftover funds, make sure you understand what your LPFSA covers. Check to see if you can use it for these typical expenses.
- Eye exams
- Optometrist fees
- Eyeglasses and contact lenses
- Prescription sunglasses
- Eye drops (prescription and over-the-counter drops with a prescription)
- Vision plan copays and deductibles
- Diagnostic services and treatments for eye conditions
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