Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Funding Autism Treatment with a Medical Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

If your employer offers a Medical Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), sign up for them right away! Medical Care Flexible Spending Accounts, also known as Flexible Spending Arrangements, are excellent resources for funding autism treatment.

A Medical Care FSA be used to pay for diagnostic evaluations, co-payments, treatment and therapy fees, therapy equipment, over-the-counter and prescription medications, dietary supplements, medical travel expenses, disabled dependent care expenses, special education and specialized tutoring, among other expenses. For a full list of expenses that can be reimbursed by a Medical Care FSA, consult IRS Publication 502.

Autism treatment expenses that may be eligible (depending on your particular Medical Care FSA) for reimbursement for reimbursement may include ABA, speech therapy, occupational therapy, dietary supplements, diagnostic evaluations, assistive technology equipment, augmentative communication devices, tuition for therapeutic day schools and travel expenses for treatment in out-of-state facilities. Call the Internal Revenue Service (800) 829-1040 and check with your Medical Care FSA plan administrator for more information about which autism treatment expenses are reimbursable through your Medical Care FSA.

In addition to reimbursing you for out-of-pocket expenses for autism treatment, FSAs are tax-advantaged accounts that reduce your tax liability by reducing your taxable income. This may make you eligible for certain refundable tax credits.

This is how Medical Care FSAs work. If your employer allows you to place a maximum of $3,000 in a Medical Care FSA and you elect to take advantage of the full amount of the benefit, you will have the $3,000 deducted from your paycheck in equal installments. For example, if you are paid every other week and receive 26 annual paychecks, approximately $115.38 will be deducted from each of your paychecks. The funds will be deducted from your paycheck on a pre-tax basis so your taxable income will be lowered by $115.38 per paycheck and a total of $3,000 for the year. Having a lower annual taxable income could help you qualify for tax credits, such as the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit or the additional child tax credit.

When you incur eligible expenses, you simply complete your particular FSA plan’s reimbursement form and submit it—along with receipts, invoices and any other required documentation— to your plan’s processing department. You may request reimbursement for eligible expenses as soon as you incur them, even if you haven’t yet paid for the service. Reimbursement is usually made promptly via direct deposit or check. Some Medical Care FSA plans provide debit cards that can be used to pay for expenses upfront. For more information, read IRS Publication 969.

Here are some tips for deriving maximum benefit from Medical Care FSAs:

1. Sign up for the maximum Medical Care FSA benefit amount you will actually use. If you do not use your entire benefit amount during your plan year, you will lose the unused portion. Create an itemized estimate of the amount you will spend on eligible medical expenses during the plan year before deciding how much you’d like to place in your Medical Care FSA.

2. Find out what type of documentation you need for each type of claim you will be submitting for reimbursement from your Medical Care FSA. Medical Care FSA plans generally request receipts, explanation of benefits (EOB) statements and itemized statements. To obtain reimbursement for some services, some plans may require prescriptions, letters of medical necessity, confirmations of appointments or other documentation. Be sure to keep copies of all documentation for your records.

3. Request reimbursement promptly after incurring an eligible expense.

4. Use all of the funds in your Medical Care FSA during your plan year.

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