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Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) 2020 Update

November 3, 2020 in Announcements, Blog, Education


With the Federal Open Season for benefit selection coming up in the next week, this is a great time to review a benefit that is not widely used by Federal employees, the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS).

The first question most Federal employees ask is “What is the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS)?”
FSAFEDS allows you to save money for health care expenses with a Health Care or Limited Expense Health Care FSA. Think of it as a savings account that helps you pay for items that typically aren’t covered by your FEHB Plan, the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program, or other health insurance coverage. Things like deductibles, out of pocket expenses, and other expenses that may not be cover by the medical coverage (FEHB) and Dental or Vision (FEDVIP) FSAFEDS also offers an account for families with young children or elder care expenses – the Dependent Care FSA. This account allows you to set aside money to pay for your daycare expenses.

Eligible employees can enroll in FSAFEDS each year during the FEHB Open Season, November 9th to December 14th, 2020. Contribute are made directly from bi-weekly pay on a pre-tax basis into the FSA. New and newly eligible employees who wish to enroll in this program must do so within 60 days after they become eligible, but before October 1 of the calendar year. Retirees are not eligible to participate in the FSA program.

The next question is “How does it work?”

There are three different Flexible Spending Accounts plans available:

Health Care FSA (HCFSA)
With a Health Care FSA, you use pre-tax dollars to pay for qualified out-of-pocket Health Care expenses. The money you contribute to a Health Care FSA is not subject to payroll taxes, so you end up paying less in taxes and taking home more of your paycheck.

• Used to pay for eligible medical, dental, and vision care expenses not covered by the plans
Co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles
Professional services: physical therapy, chiropractor, and acupuncture
Prescription drugs, insulin, and prescribed over-the-counter medicine
Over-the-counter health care items: bandages, pregnancy test kits,
blood pressure monitors, etc.
• Can contribute up to a maximum of $2,750 (2020)
• Access the full amount of your account on day one of the plan year
• Can carry over up to $550 from one plan year to the next (You must sign up for a least $100 to be deducted for the next plan year)
• Can be reimbursed by check or direct deposit into checking or savings account

Limited Expense Health Care FSA (LEX HCFSA)
If you’re enrolled in an HSA-qualified high-deductible health plan and have a Health Savings Account (HSA), you can increase your savings with a Limited Expense Health Care FSA (LEX HCFSA). This pre-tax benefit account helps you save on eligible out-of-pocket dental and vision care expenses while taking advantage of the long-term savings power of an HSA.

• Can contribute up to a maximum of $2,750 (2020)
• Used to pay for eligible dental, and vision care expenses not covered by the plans
Co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles
Vision exams, LASIK surgery, contact lenses, and eyeglasses
Dental cleanings, X-rays, fillings, crowns, and orthodontia
• Access the full amount of your account on day one of the plan year
• Can carry over up to $550 from one plan year to the next (You must sign up for a least $100 to be deducted for the next plan year)
• Can be reimbursed by check or direct deposit into checking or savings account

Dependent Care FSA (DCFSA)
A Dependent Care FSA (DCFSA) is a pre-tax benefit account used to pay for eligible dependent care services, such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult daycare. It’s a smart, simple way to save money while taking care of your loved ones so that you can continue to work.

• With a Dependent Care FSA, you use pre-tax dollars to pay qualified out-of-pocket dependent care expenses.
Care for your child who is under age 13
 Before and after school care
 Babysitting and nanny expenses
 Daycare, nursery school, and preschool
 Summer day camp
Care for your spouse or a relative who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care and lives in your home
• Can contribute to up to a maximum of:
$2,500 per year if you are married and file a separate tax return (2021)
$5,000 per year if you are married and file a joint tax return or if you file as single or head of household. Both cannot claim $5,000 (2021)
• When the account has the funds, you can use your balance to pay for eligible expenses
• Can only use the funds that are available in the account, not the entire election amount
• Funds must be used by March 15th, 2022 or lose it and claims must be submitted by April 30, 2021

As a rule, you can’t change your Health Care FSA (HCFSA), Limited Expense Health Care FSA (LEX HCFSA), or Dependent Care FSA (DCFSA) election amount during a benefit period (the plan year). That’s why it’s important to plan an election that suits your needs for your entire benefit period.

But there are circumstances – called qualifying life events (QLEs) – when you can make changes. The final question is “How do I calculate how much to contribute to the FSA?”

This question can be a tricky because it depends on the individual, the family, FEHB plan selected and the Dental or Vison plan selected. The amount can vary based on other factors such as the plan copayments, deductibles, out of pocket expenses, prescription drugs and planned medical or dental procedures.

A good starting point is to look at your 2 years of uncovered expenses. You can obtain that information from your FEHB and dental and vision insurance plan providers by looking at your Explanation of Benefits (EOBs). These can be obtained go going on the carrier’s website or contacting the carrier directly. Add up the two years’ worth of uncovered expenses and subtract out any extraordinary expenses, i.e. broken foot. Then divide by 2. After you get that figure add in any planned expense for procedures you may have for the upcoming year, i.e. Lasik surgery. If you are unsure you can always just contribute $550 for the first year. And since you can carry over up to $550 remaining in either your HCFSA or LEX HCFSA account from one plan year to the next (must re-enroll each year), there’s no reason not to take advantage of the tax savings this year and every year.

For more details on eligible expenses or to enroll in the plan go to the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS) website at www.fsafeds.com.

K. Shawn McCoy is the President and Founder of Federal Employee Benefits Advocates, LLC (FEBA) an educational and training company located in Shreveport, LA. Mr. McCoy is an expert on Federal employee benefits and has spoken to over 28,000 Federal employees over the last 11 years. For more details about the training programs offered by FEBA check their website. www.febadvocates.com

Office of Personnel Management Announces 60 Day Period for Changes to Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAFEDS)

July 13, 2020 in Announcements


Background

To assist with the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Notice 2020-291 provides increased flexibility with regard to mid-year elections under Section 125 cafeteria plans related to employer-sponsored health coverage, health Flexible Spending. Arrangements (health FSAs), and dependent care assistance programs. 

Beginning July1, 2020, OPM is permitting FSAFEDS participants a 60-day limited period during which certain mid-year changes can be made to their existing elections. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is the reason for these additional flexibilities, participants do not need to be directly affected by COVID-19 and do not need to experience a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) or provide any documentation to make changes.

FSAFEDS Permitted Changes

Increase or Decrease Election in HCFSA, LEX HCFSA, and DCFSA

During the 60-day limited period, all participants who have enrolled in a 2020 Health Care Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA), Limited Expense Health Care Flexible Spending Account (LEX HCFSA), or Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) will be allowed to make a one-time change (increase or decrease) in the amount of their annual election in each FSA account in which they are enrolled. In accordance with IRS guidance, the election change is effective prospectively, on the first pay period after approval by FSAFEDS. Accordingly, participants cannot receive a refund of allotments from pay they have already made to their FSA account(s) year-to-date. In addition, participants cannot decrease their election below the amount already allotted to the FSA account OR the amount already reimbursed for eligible expenses, whichever is greater.

 

This 60-day limited period to increase or decrease the FSAFEDS election should not be confused with the existing opportunity to increase or decrease DCFSA or HCFSA elections through September 30 based on a QLE such as cost or coverage changes in childcare or elder care.  This 60-day limited period affects both HCFSAs as well as DCFSAs, does not require the participant to establish a QLE, and does not preclude a participant from submitting a QLE change before or after submitting a change during this 60-day limited period, provided the QLE is submitted no later than September 30, 2020.

 

Extended period to both incur eligible expenses and claim reimbursement of unused 2019

DCFSA amounts until December 31, 2020

Participants who made an election to a DCFSA for the plan year ending December 31, 2019 had until March 15, 2020 (the “grace period”) to incur eligible DCFSA expenses. Claims for reimbursement of these expenses was due by April 30, 2020, the deadline for submitting claims from the previous plan year. Any funds not used during the grace period are normally forfeited. An extension of this period is being allowed this year on a one-time basis. Specifically, participants who made an election to a DCFSA in the plan year ending December 31, 2019, will now be allowed to both incur eligible expenses and claim any 2019 funds remaining in their DCFSA account until December 31, 2020. The extended claim period is automatic for qualified participants.

 

HCFSA and LEX HCFSA carryover amount from 2020 into 2021 increased to $550

IRS Notice 2020-334 allows an increase in the carryover amounts for HCFSA and LEX HCFSA from $500 to $550. Participants may now carryover up to $550 of unused amounts in their HCFSA and LEX HCFSA remaining at the end of 2020 into 2021, if they re-enroll for the 2021. DCFSA allotments made in 2020 may be increased or decreased during the 60-day limited period, but the grace period for incurring eligible DCFSA expenses with respect to these funds will expire March 15, 2021 and claims for reimbursement will be due by April 30, 2021plan year. This increased carryover amount of $550 will continue in place for plan years beyond 2021.5

 

How to submit election changes

Participants to contact FSAFEDS by visiting www.FSAFEDS.com or by calling 1- 877-FSAFEDS (372-3337) to take advantage of theseFSAFEDS Program flexibilities, or for questions and additional information.

The Government Shutdown Guide

January 4, 2019 in Blog

With the government shut down heading into its third week, there are many questions from Federal employees as to how the shutdown will affect them ranging from backpay, health benefits, life insurance and retirement benefits. We at Federal Employee Benefits Advocates, LLC have created a brochure on the “Government Shutdown” and How a Shutdown May Impact You and Your Agency. This designed for Federal employees and their families to help them better understand how the shutdown may affect them. Please feel free to share this information with any Federal employees or agencies.
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