Don’t rely on health FSAs to offset gas costs

By Summer Rae Ramo, CNN • Updated 29th September 2017

If you have any flexible spending account (FSA) to consider for September, you’re probably asking: What qualifies me?

Essentially, your ability to use any portion of the pre-tax dollars in your FSA for qualified medical expenses will change on September 1. Depending on how much your employer added to the account last year, you’ll be able to use up to $3,400 for medical expenses in 2017, down from $3,600 in 2016. There are also special health insurance tax breaks available to lower-income individuals.

If you save the money you’d otherwise spend in one fell swoop and put it toward something else, you could be eligible for a tax refund instead.

But what if you want to save for healthcare, but you’re also wanting to eat out and be entertained this fall?

Rising gas prices are not your friends

If you’re planning to travel more this fall, try not to rely on using that fall ACA open enrollment to get a monthlong window to visit a doctor’s office.

The national average price of gas is $2.60 per gallon, up more than 30 cents from a year ago, according to AAA. California, Texas and Hawaii are seeing prices as high as $3.40 per gallon, which are less than what is found in California and Hawaii.

It’s particularly frustrating for those who have health insurance, because gas costs are hitting those with great distances to travel hard. Those traveling more than 50 miles from their house and job can expect to pay $40 more per tank.

“September is generally the month with the highest gas prices, due to the refineries switching to cheaper winter gasoline as well as the switchover to ICE from propane in many states,” said Tanya Altmann, an economist for Trillium Financial Group.

The toll that rising gas prices are taking on consumers is mounting. In an Edelman survey , 70% of people said that they planned to either cut back on living expenses or stop spending this fall to save on gas.

Of course, saving on gas won’t fill a large void when it comes to the fall (or any) health-care expenses that come in for seasons after. The number of Americans over 65 now tops 40 million, and the total number of Americans with health insurance rose by more than 15 million between 2012 and 2015.

Which back-to-school resources should you check out?

If you have the cash, shopping at Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s Club or Target may save you a little bit of money at the pump. For students, those deals will extend through the end of the school year. If you live in Texas or Florida, visit Whole Foods, or Ross for back-to-school discounts.

Best Health shows you medical items that could be eligible for FSA use at

There are ways you can still use FSA money for medical expenses

The sticking point for many people is finding out what this summer’s surges will ultimately cost them.

According to TrimTabs Investment Research, the price of gasoline topped $2.10 a gallon at several locations across the country in August. The average price for regular gasoline was $2.20 on September 1, and experts predict that $2.40 will be reached later this fall.

Cheap gas will likely only help your wallet if you have credit card benefits with travel rewards. You can use those points to get tickets to museum or sporting events.

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