It’s the time of year for making a list and checking it twice. If one of the items on your list is to check the balance in your HSA or FSA and you discover a little extra, you might want to use some of those funds on a massage.
From stress and pain relief to better circulation, massage therapy offers many benefits that qualify as medical treatment, and massage is often covered by health insurance. But even if it’s not, it is still likely you can pay for your massage treatment out of your HSA or FSA, significantly
reducing your overall cost.
WHAT IS AN HSA/FSA?
A Health Savings Account (HSA) and a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) both refer to special type of savings accounts which allow you to use pre-tax dollars to cover a variety of expenses related to health, including prescriptions, copays, deductibles, and complementary treatments like massage therapy.
You open an HSA or FSA through your employer, and decide how much you want put into that account. This money goes directly into the HSA or FSA before taxes are taken out. Sometimes your employer may also contribute to your fund, but as is typical with anything that involves taxes, it’s important to read the fine print. If you have any questions, talk to your HR department to make sure you fully understand the ins and outs of the different kinds of medical expense savings accounts.
Whether you have an HSA or an FSA, you usually get a debit card to pay for qualifying expenses, although in some cases, you submit a receipt and get reimbursed. So long as you use your HSA or FSA for health-related expenses, you don’t pay income tax on that money.
WHY BOTHER WITH AN HSA OR FSA?
HSAs and FSAs offer many benefits, the biggest of which is saving you money. Also, while no one wants to think about being in an accident or having a major health problem, medical emergencies do happen, and so it can add to your peace of mind to have some money set aside in case of unforeseen health expenses.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN HSA AND AN FSA?
The main difference between the two accounts is that the balance in an HSA can be carried over from year to year, so if you don’t have much in the way of medical expenses one year, you can save up for the future. FSAs, on the other hand, need to be used by December 31st in the year in which they were saved. With FSAs, the amount you elect to set aside does not carry over into the new year.
So while HSAs and FSAs are not exactly the same thing, their differences don’t matter when it comes to using the funds to pay for your massage. But, if you have an FSA and currently have money remaining in your account, this is a great reason to book a massage.
HOW CAN I USE AN HSA/FSA TO COVER MY MASSAGE?
No matter whether you have an HSA or FSA, massage therapy is usually considered a legitimate medical expense by most insurance companies. Still, to be sure, check with your carrier or ask an HR representative at work because some plans do not cover massage, even with a doctor’s prescription. However, this is not common and most people encounter no difficulty paying for their massage with their HSA or FSA.
After your insurance company confirms that it does endorse massage therapy as medical treatment, call your primary care physician to ask about adding massage to your wellness or treatment plan. Many doctors are willing to provide the prescription through a simple call and do not require you to make an appointment. However, some may still want you to come in so that you can go over your reasons for requesting massage therapy. If you want any help, Dr. McClain who works with us can assist.
Whether or not your doctor wants to see you in person, s/he will probably want specifics about your symptoms. Massage therapy offers beneficial effects for a wide variety of conditions: back pain, stress, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, arthritis, and poor circulation as a complication of diabetes are just some of the symptoms that can be alleviated by massage.
Not all doctors are aware of the benefits of massage and some may be resistant to alternative treatments, so go to your appointment prepared. You could mention specific massage modalities such as Swedish massage for stress-relief or to lower blood pressure, or neuromuscular therapy for back pain or migraines. If you know your doctor tends toward conventional treatment, you could even surf the web ahead of time and bring along a few case studies that demonstrate the value of massage therapy. Again, feel free to call us, as Dr. McClain works with us and is glad to assist.
For many insurance plans, a doctor’s prescription is needed in order for massage to qualify as a legitimate expense for an HSA or FSA.
The prescription must include the reason you are getting the massage. This might be an injury or medical condition. Just like with medication where a prescription might read ‘Take one pill morning and night,’ the massage prescription must state the number of sessions required per month. It could be once a month, biweekly or every week. If you plan to get regular massage, you may want to consider a membership as a way to save even more money. The prescription must also indicate the duration of treatment, perhaps 6 months or a year. It may also indicate the session length, such as a 30-, 60- or 90-minute treatment.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s usually not difficult to get a prescription for massage. Massage is so mainstream nowadays that many healthcare practitioners don’t even require a visit to write one up.
Once you have your prescription, all that’s left to to do is to book an appointment with a licensed massage therapist. Use your HSA or FSA debit card to pay for the session and you’re good to go! If you decide to sign up for a membership, you simply link your HSA/FSA debit card account, and then relax. The session fee will be automatically debited, one less thing for you to think about.
Remember that FSAs expire at the end of each calendar year, so if you’ve got some excess funds lying around, a massage is a great way to use them in a way that has a direct positive impact on your health.
HOW MUCH CAN I SAVE WITH AN HSA/FSA?
More than you might think. Each year, you can save 30-40% from your out-of-pocket expenses by paying for massage with your HSA or FSA. And if you sign up for a membership, you can save even more.
The normal rate for a 1-hour neuromuscular massage is $149, but it can cost as little as $79 for Massage Revolution members. Discounts apply to all our other massages as well. A 1-hour therapeutic massage, normally priced at $99, is only $59 for members. If you get massage regularly, that adds up to thousands in savings every year!
ANY OTHER TIPS FOR USING MY HSA/FSA FOR MASSAGE?
When you go to your doctor to ask for a prescription for massage, be honest about your reasons for seeking this type of treatment. Massage therapy can be a great way to improve your health, healing and overall wellbeing, so there is no need to invent injuries or illnesses. Dr. McClain again is happy to help.
Likewise, be sure to use your HSA/FSA only for massages that are covered by your prescription, and to keep good records for tax purposes. Massage therapy offers many health benefits, and an HSA or FSA can help keep your wallet healthy too.