Optometrists, dentists busy as patients with FSAs flock to spend balances before year’s end

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The Flexible Spending Accounts offered by some employers include a use-it-or-lose-it provision that leaves some people scrambling to spend down their balances before the New Year.

So many turn to discretionary medical expenses like dental exams, orthotic shoes, contact lens solution.

"We usually have to make sure everybody’s here," said Patricia Friend, an optometric assistant with Primary Eyecare in Cleveland. "We get a lot of appointments that we try and squeeze in, so people don’t lose their benefits."

FSAs let people deduct money from their paychecks tax-free, and save it up for medical costs their insurance doesn’t cover.

If they overestimate, they can lose their balance at year’s end.

Bill Hertzog, Northeast Ohio district manager for Colonial Life, says that’s why it’s important for people to understand the terms and plan carefully.

Rule changes in recent years have offered some relief, he said. Employers can let workers roll over up to $500 into the next year, or allow a two-and-a-half-month grace period.

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