Medical Supplies You Can Still Score With Flex Spending
After I graduated college in 2003, 12 months passed before I landed a full-time job.
During that time, one of my wisdom teeth decided to rear its ugly head — abscess and all. After a regimen of penicillin reduced the swelling, I had to have the tooth removed, which was a problem. I didn’t have health insurance, and that meant an appointment at the local dental school for extraction.
Hand to God, before I was called back to the dentist’s chair, a girl came out crying. Her mother asked what was wrong and the girl blubbered the only six words you don’t want to hear before dental surgery — “They took out the wrong tooth.” I just about peed my pants in fear, and from that day forward, I put my search for full-time employment into hyperdrive.
When I landed my first job with full benefits, I was ecstatic. Finally, I could fall ill whenever I wanted. More than a generous amount of sick days, my company also offered a flex spending program. But as fate would have it, I never got sick while working with that company. Because I never had to visit a doctor or purchase meds, there was a lot of money in my flex spending account at the end of the year. I’m not sure where I thought the unused portion went, but I didn’t anticipate that I could use it for anything besides doctor bills and the like.
Boy was I wrong. A co-worker informed me that there’s a long list of health-related items that I could purchase with the money in my account. All I had to do was go to Target, fill up my cart, and submit the receipt to the program for reimbursement. Of course, I was skeptical. But $300 and an apocalypse-sized bin full of survival necessities later, I was a believer. (See also: What You Need to Know About Your FSA)
The bad news is that flex-spending rules changed starting in 2011, making over-the-counter items more difficult to purchase with flex-spending funds. Some of the items that you can still get, however, may surprise you. All of the following items that I stockpiled are still flex-spending eligible, although some require a prescription from your doctor. The ones that need a prescription are noted as such below.
Boxes and boxes of Band-Aids — the brand-name kind, too. Small, medium, and large. Little round ones. Bandages with Harry Potter on them. If you ever scrape your knee, I’m your man.
Contact Lens Cleaning Solution
Because before I met my husband I hosted a lot of sleepovers. You’d think that people who can barely see would remember their Bausch & Lomb.
Let me rephrase that…before I met my husband I hosted a lot of safe sleepovers.
To reduce the redness caused by recreational activities. (With prescription.)
I bought one to keep in my shoulder bag, one for my pantry, and one for the back of my car. The auto kit came with a super cool “HELP” sign and other I-do-not-wanna-die-in-this-vehicle supplies.
Motion Sickness Supplies and Medication
Sea-Bands and motion-sickness medications are excellent items to have on hand if you’re an avid traveler. (With prescription for the medication.)
Pregnancy Test Kits
No way, no how would I ever need these, but they came in handy for friends.
Sunscreen With SPF 30 or Greater
This stuff is expensive, and I’m so fair-skinned that I can get sunburned at midnight. You just know somebody at the beach is going to ask to borrow it, too. Now you can let them. (With prescription.)
Believe it or not, these are just a few of the items I bought. I made sure the bill reached the limit of the available funds in the flex spending account by stocking up on pain relievers, antihistamines, chest rubs, cold and flu medications — whatever was on this list, really. Several of those items now require a prescription, unfortunately, but the list provides a full run-down of what you do and do not need a doctor's note for.
[Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect current flex-spending rules.]