Q. Why can’t I use a Health Savings Account to pay for over-the-counter medicine? My card gets rejected at the store when I try to use it for stuff like Tylenol or cold medicine.
— Confused

A. A health savings account, or HSA, can be a great took to save money of medical costs that are not covered by your insurance.

The HSA is a tax-deferred savings account which is typically paired with a high deductible health insurance plan, said Chip Wieczorek, a certified financial planner with Tradition Capital Management in Summit.

“The account allows individuals to set aside funds that can be used for eligible medical expenses on a pre-tax basis,” he said. “One of the key advantages of an HSA, and unlike a flexible spending account (FSA), is that the unused funds can roll over year after year.”

Wieczorek said there are certain medical expenses that are eligible for reimbursement from your account, such as deductibles, dental care, vision, medical procedures and prescription medications. Most health savings plan custodians will provide a list of what does or does not qualify under the IRS guidelines, he said.

“The reason you were not able to use your HSA account for Tylenol or other cold medicines is that in 2011, the Affordable Care Act changed the rules and no longer allows over-the-counter medication reimbursement,” he said. “Prior to 2011, those types of medications were eligible.”

Wieczorek said there are some other points to keep in mind with an HSA account.

There is a maximum deferral of $3,350 for an individual and $6,750 for a family in 2016, he said In addition, individuals over 55 years old can make a catch-up contribution of $1,000 per year.

“Funds can also be invested in a wide variety of investment vehicles such as mutual funds, real estate, precious metals, stocks, etc. which will provide for a long term `nest egg’ for medical expenses, well into retirement,” he said.

Email your questions to ask@njmoneyhelp.com.

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for The Star-Ledger and she’s the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Click here to sign up for the NJMoneyHelp.com weekly e-newsletter. Like NJMoneyHelp.com on Facebook and follow it on Twitter

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