Support for the mental wellbeing of employees and their families is always in season, but as much of the country is slowly emerging from the cold, bleak winter months—not to mention the pressures of tax season—we could all give a little extra attention to our mental health.
Fortunately, benefits professionals and plan administrators can assist employees in managing their mental wellbeing by educating them about the many ways flexible spending account (FSA) and health savings account (HSA) funds can be used to address mental health challenges. More than 70 million Americans are enrolled in these accounts, yet surveys show that confusion about what counts as an eligible expense is still a major roadblock to adoption and utilization of this valuable employee benefit.
Four ways FSA and HSA dollars can help with employee wellbeing
Following are four considerations HR and benefits professionals can help employees understand when it comes to using tax-free FSA and HSA dollars to maximize their mental health support.
- Many clinical mental health services are covered. Educate your employees about the mental health services that are covered by your health plan, and how to go about accessing in-person and virtual care options. It’s also important that employees understand how their FSA or HSA can fill the gaps in your health plan coverage by paying for services like counseling and pharmaceuticals to treat mental health conditions. Acupuncture is another popular treatment option that may not be covered under the company health plan but that is an eligible expense for FSA and HSA users.
- Increasing physical activity can relieve stress. Exercise is not just important for physical wellbeing, it’s been proven to have a major impact on stress relief and mental health. There’s also evidence that movement can stimulate creativity and improve cognitive performance. Employees can use their FSA or HSA to support their personal fitness journey—from managing muscle aches and chronic pain with drug-free or therapeutic options to purchasing qualified deep tissue massagers, braces and supports for weekend warriors. And while fitness equipment, gym memberships, fitness apps and nutritional supplements are not currently eligible for reimbursement with FSA or HSA funds, if any of these approaches are recommended by a physician, an employee may be able to submit a Letter of Medical Necessity to their FSA or HSA administrator for an exception (always check with your benefits administrator first).
Hear the latest on FSA and HSA trends at the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, May 3-5 in Las Vegas. Click here to register.
- When it comes to sleep, quality and quantity matter. Sleep is a crucial ingredient to health and wellbeing, but it is often the first thing employees ignore when schedules get busy. This can be a real problem for organizational productivity and culture, as lack of adequate sleep greatly impacts stress levels and overall mood. Fortunately, an FSA or HSA can be used to purchase over-the-counter sleep aids as well as night-time pain relievers, if aches and pains are contributing to restless nights. Even sleep therapy and sleep deprivation treatments are FSA- and HAS-eligible.
- Nature really is good medicine. Spending time outside is linked to cognitive benefits and improvement in mood, mental health and emotional wellbeing. HR and benefits leaders can help employees make the most of the great outdoors while protecting their health by educating them about FSA- and HSA-eligible expenses like sunscreens and eligible lip balms. All sun-protection items with an SPF of 15+ are eligible, including those with additional vitamins and minerals. Because insect bites are considered a medical condition, products like the Bug Bite Thing and other itch relievers are also FSA- and HAS-eligible (unfortunately, insect repellent doesn’t currently qualify, but look for sun-protection products with insect repellent, which may qualify).
See also: Embed employee wellbeing into your company culture and enjoy big payoffs
Employees continue to struggle with FSAs and HSAs
FSAs and HSAs aren’t exactly the new kids on the healthcare block, but employees continue to struggle with awareness of eligibility and how to use these tax-advantaged accounts. HR and benefits leaders can help account holders get the most from this employee benefit by connecting them to resources like a comprehensive online eligibility list, which can help employees budget their dollars and identify the right contribution amount for their individual needs and lifestyle. Managing FSA deadlines and tracking FSA/HSA receipts and expenses can also help employees maximize their healthcare dollars without adding stress to their already busy lives.
Adequate mental health support should be a year-round goal for human resource teams, and if your organization offers an FSA or HAS, you are well-positioned to advance employee mental wellbeing—a win-win for your organization and your workforce.