Drugged Out (in a good way) Federal Workers

Friday - 9/24/2010, 4:00am EDT

When it comes to getting the most bang for their drug bucks, federal and postal workers are well ahead of their private sector counterparts.

Thanks to an intensive education campaign inside government, nearly 318,000 feds have signed up for Flexible Spending Accounts which give them a tax-break and discount drugs and medical services.

Those FSAs permit them to set aside money (on a pre-tax basis) each pay period and to use that money for a wide variety of health care related items from crutches to drugs and even co-payments.

Beginning next year, there will be some changes (very important to some people, minor to others) in what is covered. Over the counter items like cough or allergy medicines, which are currently eligible for FSA payments must, beginning in 2011, be prescribed by a doctor.

The Office of Personnel Management is currently working on an updated list of what items will be covered by the FSA without a prescription and which OTC medicines and drugs will require a prescription.

Finally, in 2013, another portion of the Affordable Care Act kicks in limiting individuals (who can now sock away up to $5,000 per year) to a maximum $2,500 FSA account.

Meantime, here's the official statement from OPM's FSAFEDS website:

    Health Care Flexible Spending Accounts (HCFSA and LEX HCFSA) Will Change as a Result of the Healthcare Reform Legislation

    Beginning January 1, 2011, currently eligible over-the-counter (OTC) products that are medicines or drugs (e.g., acne treatments, allergy and cold medicines, antacids, etc.) will not be eligible for reimbursement from your Health Care FSA - unless, you have a prescription for that item written by your physician.

    The only exception is insulin - which will not require a prescription from January 1, 2011 forward. Other currently eligible OTC items that are not medicines or drugs, such as bandages and nasal strips, will not require a prescription.

    Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (DCFSA) are not impacted by the Healthcare Reform Legislation.

You can call FSA Customer Service at 1-877-372-3337 or email them: fsafeds@shps.com

Another Year Without A COLA

Health premiums are going up next year (what else is new?) and many retirees are upset because they won't be getting a cost of living adjustment in January. But some are taking it in stride. Like Doug in Denver who has this view from the 28th floor:

    "Back in the early 80s oil prices were rising like a hot air balloon in Albuquerque, NM. Everyone said it was bad for business. Speculation was it would soon pass $50/barrel. Then the price of oil fell like a boulder falling into the Grand Canyon. Everyone said it was bad for business.

    "It is good to be alive with two (so far) beautiful, healthy, wonderful grandchildren. I prefer the view of real mountains from my office window than worrying about possible mole hills 28 floors below.

Clocking Out

Jim McDaniel, program manager for advanced R&D at the Federal Aviation Administration is retiring after 45 years with Uncle Sam. Part of that time was spent driving a helicopter in Vietnam. Fellow car-pooler Mark G. Baran predicts McDaniel will divide his time between his grandchildren and his gadgets. Not a bad plan!

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

ScientificAmerican reports "Congenitally blind people move their hands when talking, implying that we gesture not only for our listeners but for ourselves."


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