By Aaron Neufeld, OD, FAAO
Nov. 27, 2019
The year’s end signals the time for holiday cheer, decorating–and deadlines for patients to use their flex-spending account (FSA) and health-savings account (HSA) money, or lose it.
Here is how I make the most of this opportunity to provide better care for my patients, and build practice profitability.
FSA/HSA money accounts for at least 30-40 percent of our credit-card collections. In our area, in northern California, nearly every patient has a form of FSA/HSA through their company. On average, our patients spend $300-$500 annually with their FSA/HSA cards.
The main difference between HSA and FSA is that an individual controls an HSA and allows contributions to roll over, while FSAs are less flexible and are owned by an employer.
FSA/HSA is a system that is designed to benefit the individual. A portion of pre-tax cash is set
aside for medical expenses so that the individual does not have to plan ahead and be at a
potential financial crisis if medical bills pile up.
The problem with HSA/FSA is that many individuals do not understand what it is or how to use it. This is a great opportunity to not only educate your patients on FSA/HSA, but also let them leave with products that they need, but did not realize they could afford.
Time for that Second (or Third) Pair of Glasses
FSA/HSA money in our practice is used for practically everything, whether it be eyewear, sunwear or sports eyewear. Patients are often elated to use this money on materials after an exam.
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The most common FSA/HSA sales are on glasses and contacts, however FSA/HSA provides a
huge benefit to our office in that patients often feel they need to use the money rather than
waste it – this often translates into a second pair or an additional pair of sunglasses. Sometimes
it is even used toward stocking up on extra contact-lens solution.
Market FSA/HSA Spending Opportunities
We have marketed specifically toward capturing FSA/HSA dollars. We do this through mailings and social-media marketing. Here are a couple campy examples (using our furry friends as a way of capturing attention):
Use In-Office Signage & Thoroughly Answer Patients Questions About FSA/HSA Spending Opportunities
We have a posted sign at the front desk that says “don’t forget to use your flex-spending
dollars,” however in-office promotion is primarily through word of mouth. Our staff is trained to
bring up FSA/HSA spending as an option for payment.
There are two scenarios in which they bring up FSA/HSA. The first is if a patient is contemplating payment for materials/services, but is not quite sure they can make the purchase. Then FSA/HSA is brought up as a possible option which the patient has not considered. The second scenario is when the patient is in the process of paying for materials/services.
Every new staff member is trained to ask about whether the patient has HSA/FSA accounts in these two scenarios. Often a patient does not think about HSA/FSA as payment options, but rather defaults on credit card, check or cash.
Our staff will directly ask patients if the have a FSA/HSA card to use (in addition to bringing up
credit card and cash as well).
While my conversations with patients about payment options is limited (as it should be as a
doctor!), I tend to bring up FSA/HSA in two situations. The first is if a patient brings it up first by either asking about how they can use it or what exactly it is. In this case I explain how FSA/HSA works in very simple terms and explain to the patient that the funds can be applied to any overages they incur in the office.
The second situation is when I am discussing a specific lens recommendation or contact-lens brand. Sometimes the patient will question cost or how they will pay for the material. In that case I will bring up FSA/HSA as an option.