With 2019 right around the corner, many companies are gearing up for their benefits open enrollment, which can be a stressful time for everyone. The choices you make in the coming months will affect your coverage for the next year. To help alleviate confusion and assist in making more informed decisions regarding the Flexible Spending Account, we’ve polled participants and compiled a list of the top 5 most frequently asked questions and their answers.

1. When and how can I enroll for the FSA?

FSA open enrollment period dates are chosen by your employer and usually coincide with the enrollment period for your other company plans. The method of enrollment is also chosen by your employer. The most common ways are: online, using an internal employee management or payroll system; online using Sheakley’s participant portal; or manually, using enrollment forms.  Your HR/Benefits department will be able to provide you with the specifics on both the timing and process, and should be your first stop when seeking out FSA enrollment information.

2. Is the Dependent Care FSA used to reimburse my child’s healthcare expenses?

This is one of the most common mistakes that participants make, and understandably so… as the name can be a little misleading if you’ve never participated in an FSA before. The Dependent Care FSA is not a plan to reimburse your children’s medical expenses. The Health FSA is used to reimburse medical, dental and/or vision expenses for both yourself and your eligible family members.  The Dependent Care FSA is primarily used to reimburse daycare, babysitting, camp and other childcare-related expenses for children 12 years of age and younger. Before finalizing your enrollment selections this year, be sure to read through the Enrollment Materials. They are an invaluable resource for understanding each of the plans available to you.

3. Will my FSA cover…?

If you’re going to be setting aside a portion of your hard-earned wages into an FSA, it’s only sensible that you’d want to make sure that the goods and services you’ll be receiving are covered by the plan. Included in the Enrollment Materials provided to your employer is a short list of the most common things reimbursed through the FSA. Visit the FSA Store for a list of eligible goods and services covered by the FSA.

4. How much should I set aside in my FSA?

Because each individual’s circumstances are different, we cannot offer advice on how much you should set aside in an FSA. Since your annual election will be locked in once the plan year begins and you’ll only be able to make changes if you have a Qualifying Event, we highly recommend that you take some time to determine what amount will work best for you and your family. The FSA Store’s FSA Calculator is a valuable tool that can aid in this process. By entering approximate yearly expenditures for things like office visits, prescriptions and dental care, the calculator will estimate your expenses and tax savings so you have a better idea of what your FSA ‘magic number’ might be.

5. What happens to the money in my FSA if I can’t use it?

We always caution participants not to overestimate how much they’ll need for any given year. Since the FSA is a “use-it-or-lose-it” plan, any funds left in the account after the claims run-out period ends are forfeited back to the employer. There are certain plan options that modify the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule: the 2.5 Month Extension provides some extra time after the plan year ends to use unspent funds, and the Carryover allows up to $500 to roll over into the next plan year. Your Enrollment Materials will indicate which, if either, of these options your employer’s plan may have.  You can also reach out to Sheakley or your HR/Benefits department for this information.

The key to a positive FSA experience is staying engaged with your account.  The online Participant Portal and mobile app make managing your FSA easy and convenient.  We highly recommend that, once the plan year starts, you take the time to set up your online account.  Instructions to register are included in the Enrollment Materials.  The FSA-2-GO mobile app can be downloaded from the Apple or Google Play stores, and you sign in with the same username and password that you use for the Participant Portal.

All communication from Sheakley regarding your account is done electronically via email and the Participant Portal, therefore we encourage you to verify that your online account has an up-to-date email address.  You don’t want to miss important account and plan updates!

Participation in this pre-tax benefit can help you save a significant sum on your healthcare spending each year, so we hope that the answers above eliminated any confusion or reservations you had about enrolling in a Flexible Spending Account.  Should you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to us!