September 23, 2010, 10:42 am
Pay for Massages With a Flexible Spending Account
By RON LIEBER
The article currently topping The New York Times hit parade (otherwise known as the most e-mailed list) is about new research suggesting that even a single session of massage can cause positive biological changes.
Clearly, there are a lot of massage therapists zapping this around the Internet. What many of them may not know, however, is that potential customers could be getting treatments at a significant discount by using the health care flexible spending accounts that they may have through their employer.
Here’s how this works.
First, you need to sign up for a flexible spending account. Your employer (and a third-party administrator of some sort) will pull money from your paycheck before they take out income taxes. You decide how much to deduct each year for health care expenses that insurance doesn’t cover, keeping in mind that if you don’t use the money within a year or so, you lose it.
Then, ask the administrator of your account whether massages are expenses eligible for reimbursement. If they are, you will probably need a prescription from your doctor for massage therapy for a particular ailment to use your account to pay for the massage. Most doctors are happy to oblige once you explain the reasoning to them; I know this from experience, having been in on this nice little loophole for years.
(If the employees at your administrator won’t approve the expense, you can point them to the study that the article cites and remind them that the giant flexible spending account run by the federal government will approve reimbursement for massage if a doctor believes it to be medically necessary).
Finally, make your massage appointment. You’ll probably need to pay upfront and then apply for reimbursement (don’t forget to submit your doctor’s note or prescription). If a rubdown is going to be a regular routine, you can ask the therapist for a volume discount.
The result? In a high-income-tax state, you’ll probably be getting at least one third off the retail price since you’re paying no income taxes on the money you’re using to cover the massages. Combine that with all of the massage deals that sites like Groupon regularly offer and this hardly even seems a luxury anymore.
This article was originally posted here: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/23/pay-for-massages-with-a-flexible-spending-account/?pagemode=print