It's that time of year again when patients are coming into our office to see if they are good candidates for LASIK. If so, they are electing to put money away for their LASIK next year, usually in January. Also known as medical and health care spending accounts, these are offered by about 85% of large employers and many smaller ones as well. FSAs allow workers to set aside their own money to cover co-payments, deductibles and other uninsured medical expenses ranging from dentistry to prescriptions. The advantage: these expenses are paid with pre-tax dollars! This amounts to a 20% to 30% cost savings.
You decide how much to contribute (up to the current $5,000 maximum); your company deducts a pro-rata share of that contribution from each paycheck throughout the year. You do not have to wait for the money to accumulate, procedures may be performed at the beginning of the new year. To use your FSA dollars, you’re usually given a debit card loaded with the entire year’s worth of savings that you have elected to set aside.
Up till now, there has been one catch: any amount you don’t use by year end is forfeited. This is why it is important to make sure you are a good LASIK candidate before putting that money aside. I remember one patient several years ago who came in for LASIK surgery in December. He was planning on using his FSA dollars he had previously set aside, but soon learned that he was not a good candidate. He ended up scrambling to get a hair transplant to use those dollars before the end of the year!
With the ObamaCare "reform", two new changes will be made in FSA accounts:
- Beginning in 2011, over-the-counter medicines will not be eligible, unless you have a prescription from your doctor. This will have no effect on our LASIK patients.
- Beginning in 2013, the new health care reform law will limit FSA accounts to $2,500 per year. Compare this to the $5,000 limit now in effect. What this means is that starting in 2013, FSAs will only be able to fund about half the cost of your LASIK surgery! Obviously, this is another blatant attempt by the Obama administration to tax the middle class!
So, my advice to those with FSAs who are contemplating LASIK in the future:
- Find out now if you are a good LASIK candidate before setting aside your money.
- Have the surgery before 2013 so that you can fully fund the LASIK and take adsvantage of the tax advantages that you deserve, but are losing because of ObamaCare!