A tickling session between Kay Phanor and her 3-year-old son turned into a costly medical emergency.
“We were just playing. I was tickling him, and then he accidentally kicked my front tooth out,” Phanor said. “I ended up needing about $600 of dental work.”
Unexpected medical costs can tank your budget. A prescription here, a specialist visit there, pregnancy, surgery, dental work, even glasses and braces – all add up quickly.
Thankfully, the city provides a safety net – the Healthcare Flexible Spending Account.
The HFSA is a voluntary pretax benefit plan that allows you to set aside money from your paycheck to pay your out-of-pocket medical, prescription, dental and vision expenses.
“The HFSA was a life saver for me,” said Phanor, who works in the Department of Administration and Regulatory Affairs. “I don’t know what I would have done without it. It wasn’t payday, and I don’t have an extra $600 in my budget.
“I’m so glad I was able to use my WageWorks card to take care of my tooth immediately. I also used my HFSA to take my son to a specialist for his heart condition. Having money set aside helps so much.”
About 3,800 city employees take advantage of the Health Flexible Spending Account, said Robert Thomas, Human Resources deputy director, but the HFSA is still one of the most frequently misunderstood benefits.
“The HFSA is one of the city’s best kept secrets, even though we tell employees about it every year at open enrollment,” Thomas said. “Participation grew 16 percent last year, but so many employees are still missing out on a core benefit.
“The HFSA is easier than it used to be,” Thomas said. “You have instant access to your funds with the WageWorks card. There are no more reimbursement forms, and you can roll over up to $500 of unused funds to the next plan year. The pretax saving increases your cash flow regardless of your income.”
Nina Jackson enrolled in the HFSA for routine copays, prescriptions and “just in case expenses.” When she found out she was pregnant, she contributed the maximum amount, $2,500, to cover prenatal, delivery and postpartum costs not covered by insurance. Jackson also used the HFSA for the down payment on her son’s braces and for specialist doctor visit copays.
“When you are having a baby, you have so many things to plan and think about, it felt good to know that I had those costs covered, and I would not have to dip into my take-home pay or savings for medical expenses,” said Jackson, a Parks and Recreation employee.
Initially, Nikki Foster was reluctant to enroll in the HFSA.
“I thought it was just for tax purposes, and that I would have to pay out of pocket and send in reimbursement forms,” said Foster, an engineer in Public Works and Engineering. “But then I enrolled a few years ago, and found out how easy the HFSA is to use. I like how we have access to the full contribution amount right after open enrollment. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t use it, but now I use almost all of my contributions every year. I would definitely recommend it to other employees.”