January starts the new year for Flexible Spending Account contributions and distributions. While most health insurances don’t cover massage outside of a medical setting, you might be able to pay for your massage therapy sessions with your FSA funds.
The IRS does not specifically identify Massage as a covered expense, but it doesn’t specifically exclude it either. It will not cover massage therapy for “health maintenance,” but it does state that therapy for the treatment of a physical or mental medical condition is eligible for coverage. So you can’t use your FSA to pay for your trip to the fancy spa you visited on vacation, even if that trip to the spa was essential to your health and mental well-being. But it is indeed possible to have your massage therapy covered by your FSA funds, if you take a few steps in advance.
Because the IRS specifies “treatment of a medical condition”, this requires a medical diagnosis by a doctor. A lot of people hear this and immediately decide that it’s not worth the hassle of making an appointment with the doctor, while others don’t want to have any type of medical diagnosis officially on their health record. However, if you get massages regularly for health purposes, it may be worth it for you to talk to your doctor about a massage prescription. Some of the common diagnoses that massage therapy has been prescribed for include arthritis, carpal tunnel, back pain, fibromyalgia, anxiety and/or depression, and pain management.
In addition to a diagnosis, for your massage to be considered a covered therapy, the prescription must also include a measure of frequency as well as a duration of treatment. For example, your doctor may prescribe massage therapy, once a month (frequency) for 12 months (duration) for back pain (diagnosis). Because each FSA period is for a year, you will be required to get a new prescription each year if your therapy is an ongoing treatment.
Once the massage is identified as a covered expense, some FSAs will allow you to pay for the services directly with a credit/debit card affiliated with your account. Others may require you to pay out of pocket and then submit for reimbursement. It is always best to check with your plan administrator or the HR person in charge of health benefits for your company to see if they have any specific forms or supporting documentation that are required for reimbursement.
While it may seem like a lot of hassle up front, if you do get massages regularly for health reasons, it can certainly be a great benefit to have them covered by the funds you contribute to your FSA.
Here’s to your health in the New Year!