Many companies now include a Flexible Spending Account option (FSA) in their employee benefits packages. These accounts allow individuals to set aside pre-tax dollars that they can use throughout the year for medical expenses not covered by their insurance plans such as deductibles, co-pays, vision and dental care, prescription drugs and so forth.
Unlike Health Savings Accounts, FSA plans are in the “use it or lose it” category. This means that employees who have money in their accounts at the end of the year need to spend it, or risk watching is disappear, because balances do not roll over into the following year. Plans may provide for a 2 ½ month grace period (per IRS code), however, as a rule, patients usually want to clear out their accounts before the calendar turns over each year.
For medical practices, this can mean a flurry of activity toward the end of the year as patients scramble to make appointments for elective physicals and other services in an effort to use their funds. You can reduce that year-end bottleneck by reminding patients now that December 31 is not all that far away. They’ll appreciate the reminder, and your practice will benefit by bumping up revenue during the sometimes slow fall season. Here are five ways to communicate this important piece of information to patients.
- Put a notice on the home page of your practice Web site.
- If you routinely communicate with patients via e-mail, a print newsletter, or a blog, make mention of the upcoming deadline there.
- Post a small sign at the reception desk and in exam rooms to remind patients. The wording can be simple: “Do you have an FSA? Don’t forget the December 31 deadline to use your benefits.”
- When sending statements for the remaining months in this year, print the same message as in item #3 at the bottom of each one.
- If, based on prior experience with certain patients, you know who typically uses their FSA benefits in your practice, send reminder notes out by mail. Or, have staff members make courtesy phone calls with the reminder message if your numbers are small enough to make calling feasible.
No, it’s not your responsibility to make sure that patients stay on top of these little details. But if part of your practice mission is to provide above average service, this sort of “value add” activity will help set you apart from your competitors.