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Can you use an FSA to pay for prescriptions?

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How to useWhat's covered?How to set upSummary
A flexible spending account (FSA) helps you pay toward some medical costs, including prescription drugs and certain over-the-counter (OTC) medications. If you have an FSA, you can confirm which medications are eligible through your plan.
Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI
Written by Faye Stewart
Updated on October 24, 2023

An FSA is a special savings account that your employer offers as part of your health benefits package. You can place pre-tax money into the account to spend toward eligible medical expenses.

Eligible expenses can include health appointments, insurance deductibles, and both prescription and OTC medications.

Setting aside money in an FSA allows you to save on the tax you would have paid on that amount. This can help you save money when using an FSA to pay for prescriptions.

How to use your FSA for prescriptions

Someone's left hand and forearm reaching to tap an FSA card against a contactless credit card machine
Martí Sans/Stocksy United

You can use FSAs for qualifying medical expenses, including eligible prescriptions and OTC medications.

You’ll get a physical debit card to pay for your items when you start your FSA. You can use this card in person or for online or telephone orders. You will need copies of your receipts to confirm your purchases are eligible.

As an FSA offers tax-free savings, you automatically save money by using it to pay for prescriptions. And, when you use your FSA with drug discount cards, like the one from Optum Perks, you can save even more money.

Your FSA is separate from your health insurance, so you can use FSA money to pay for expenses your plan may not cover. However, your FSA must consider your medical expenses as “qualifying” or “eligible.”

What medications are covered by an FSA?

A wide range of OTC and prescription medications, medical devices, and supplies are typically eligible for payment from an FSA. Some of these include:

  • reflux and heartburn medication, like omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • allergy medication, like diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • cold and flu medication, like oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
  • pain relievers, like ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylelnol)
  • heart monitors
  • digital thermometers
  • menstrual care items, like tampons and pads
  • blood glucose monitors
  • crutches
  • bandages

If you need help covering the cost of medications, the free Optum Perks Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.

Check with your individual FSA to confirm your list of eligible prescriptions, OTC medications, and other health items.

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How to set up an FSA

Your employer may offer an FSA as part of your overall benefits package. You must be part of a health insurance plan through your job to have an FSA.

There are different times when you can enroll in an FSA:

  • New employment: If you are a new employee, you will have a specified time to enroll, starting on your first day of employment.
  • Open enrollment: During the open enrollment period at the end of each year, you can make changes to your health benefits, including enrolling in or replenishing an FSA.
  • Qualifying life event: Certain events enable you to set up an FSA outside of open enrollment. These include losing coverage, getting married, or welcoming a new child,

You can select the amount of money you deposit in an FSA when you open it or during open enrollment. In 2023, the IRS contribution limit to an FSA was $3,050. This maximum may change each year.

If you still have money in your account at the end of the year, your employer may offer you more time to use it, typically 2.5 months. If they don’t provide this option, they may allow you to carry over up to $610.

However, if FSA money does not roll over, it’s important to estimate the amount you may need for medical expenses over the year. Many FSAs are “use it or lose it” — if you deposit an amount that’s too high, you could have money in the account you can no longer spend.

Learn more about FSAs and other options.

Summary

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) can pay for eligible prescriptions and other health expenses, including OTC medications, insurance deductibles, and medical devices.

An FSA is a savings account offered through your employer. You can deposit money tax-free to help you save on overall health costs throughout the year. Items do not need to be covered by your employee insurance plan to be eligible for payment through your FSA, but it is good to check your medications are included in your FSA.

You can also use your Optum Perks discount card with your FSA, which can help you save even more money on your prescriptions and other medications.

Contact your employer to discuss your FSA or to find out when you can enroll.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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