Need cold meds? Buy now

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For those with Flexible Spending Account or Health Saving Accounts, now is the “use it or loose it” time because for many, any money remaining in the account will disappear as of Dec. 31.

FSAs and related HSAs are employer-sponsored benefits that enable the payment of eligible medical expenses on a pre-tax basis. An FSA or HSA saves money by reducing your income taxes, as contributions made to the FSA or HSA are deducted from your check before any of taxes are calculated and are never reported to the IRS.

The overall result? A decrease in taxable income and an increase in disposable income, which can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.

Different companies have different guidelines as to deadlines to submit reimbursable receipts for 2010 expenses.

Be sure to check with your employer to determine the specific deadline for incurring expenses.

However, there are now new rules governing FSAs and HSAs following the recent healthcare reform passage.

As of Jan. 1, most over-the-counter (OTC) medicines will no longer be reimbursable through the accounts without a prescription or letter of medical necessity.

The new rules for reimbursement most notably affect purchases of OTC medications that fall into the following categories: pain relievers, cough, cold and flu, allergy, acid controllers, anti-diarrheas and other gastrointestinal, smoking cessation products, feminine anti-fungal and anti-itch, respiratory treatments, topical medical ointments, cold sore remedies and sleep aids.

The change does not affect insulin, even if purchased without a prescription, or other health care expenses such as medical devices, eye glasses, contact lenses, co-pays and deductibles.

In the coming year, if OTC drugs are needed, one option is to ask your primary care physician to write a prescription for them during your annual check up.