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Dental Health and Food: Learning to Eat Better

My intense love for candy, cakes, and everything in between started as a child. I simply couldn't go one day without something sweet to eat. But my love for all things sweet took a toll on my teeth. My dentist diagnosed me with seven cavities, each one a different size and depth. After sitting through four long dental appointments, I decided to make a change. I now monitor my diet and only eat things that benefit my oral health. I'm here to help you take better care of your teeth. My blog offers tips on how to improve your diet, maintain good oral hygiene, and many other topics. Hopefully, you can learn to overcome your bad habits just as I did. Good luck with your future dental health.


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Dental Health and Food: Learning to Eat Better

HSA, FSA, HRA -- Which Spending Accounts Can Pay For Needed Dental Treatment?

by Eric Bailey

With the array of different health and dental insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it can be confusing to determine which -- if any -- of the available spending accounts you can use to pay for dental expenses. Read on to learn more about Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) and how (or whether) they can help save you money on your dental work.

What is an HSA?

A Health Savings Account, or HSA, is available only as part of a high-deductible healthcare plan (HDHP). Like most plans, these plans require the consumer to pay the majority of healthcare expenses out of pocket until the deductible is reached -- however, this deductible is often substantially higher than the deductible for other types of health insurance plans.

Because of the high deductible and the potential for high out-of-pocket healthcare costs during a plan year, these plans also offer an HSA -- a type of health spending account where contributions and growth are tax-free, as long as withdrawn funds are used to pay qualifying medical expenses. These funds can be withdrawn at any time to pay medical expenses, or can remain in the account for years. You may also be able to pay medical expenses out of pocket and then reimburse yourself from the HSA at a later date. 

If you leave your employment at any time, the funds that have been contributed to the HSA up to the time of your change in employment are yours to keep. If your new employer also offers an HSA, you can continue making contributions to your current account, or open a new one.

Currently, individuals (or those with individual health insurance coverage) can contribute a maximum of $3,350 per year to an HSA, while those with family coverage can contribute up to $6,650. This includes both employer and employee contributions -- if your employer contributes funds to your HSA, your maximum contribution will be adjusted accordingly. 

What is an FSA?

A Flexible Spending Account, or FSA, is available in conjunction with certain types of health insurance plans. Unlike HSAs, which are available only for consumers who use HDHP plans, FSAs are available for consumers of all types of health insurance plans.

The primary difference between HSAs and FSAs is the "use it or lose it" provision -- although HSA funds are yours to keep, with no spending or account requirements, FSA funds are often forfeited if not spent by the end of the calendar year. However, some employers have "safe harbors" for procedures which took place during the calendar year but were not billed until later.

What is an HRA?

A Health Reimbursement Account, or HRA, is an employer-created and funded plan. Unlike HSAs and FSAs, which are often funded by the employee's own payroll deductions, an HRA must be funded only by the employer. These contributions are available for the employee's use, but do not belong to the employee -- if you leave your job, the money stays with your employer.

To receive funds from an HRA, you'll need to pay the expense out of pocket and then apply for reimbursement from your employer.

Which of these accounts can be used for dental expenses?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer -- but many of these accounts have some common features.

If you have a HDHP plan with an HSA, these HSA funds may be used to pay for medically-necessary dental treatment. This means that any fillings, root canals, dental implants, dentures, or other necessary treatment should be eligible -- however, cosmetic procedures like tooth whitening will not be eligible.

If you have an HDHP, you may also be able to fund a "limited purpose" FSA -- unlike other FSAs which can be used for any medical expenses, limited purpose FSAs may be used only for dental (or sometimes dental and vision) expenses. However, the types of procedures covered by an FSA are often broader than those covered by an HSA. (If you have an HDHP and are planning on some extensive dental work, you may want to fully fund your FSA for this year as well.) 

If you have an HRA, the level of coverage will depend entirely upon your employer, who sets the rules for the plan.

Click here for more information about dental funding from a dentist's office.