From the promise of a healthy gut to that of a tranquil mind, the current health trend is all about probiotics, and many people are pursuing them. But the thing is that these good bugs are pricey.
Recently, a patient with IBS for whom I have been prescribing probiotics asked me if he could use HSA (Health Saving Account) to pay for them. With an HSA, you can pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses with pre-tax money.
So, are probiotics HSA-eligible? Let’s explore together.
What is HSA?
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged medical savings account that allows you to put money away and withdraw it tax-free, as long as you use it for qualified medical expenses. By using untaxed dollars in HSA to pay for deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and other medical expenses, you may be able to lower your overall healthcare costs. HSA is available to those who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP).
HSA-qualified medical expenses
According to IRS (Internal Revenue Service), common medical expenses covered under an HSA are
- Dental care
- Hearing aids
- Vision tests, glasses, and LASIK
- Doctor’s office visits and co-pays
- Prescription drugs, some over-the-counter medicines, birth control pills
- Psychiatric care
- Ambulance, wheelchair
- Fertility treatment
- Surgery, excluding cosmetic surgery
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms promoted with claims that they provide health benefits when consumed, generally by restoring the beneficial gut flora. In addition to improving gut health, probiotics have shown promise for a variety of health purposes, including diarrhea, constipation, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and periodontal disease.
Probiotics are available on the market in the form of either probiotic foods or dietary supplements.
Are probiotics HSA eligible?
Generally, vitamins and supplements are used for general health and are not HSA-eligible. Probiotics, unfortunately, fall into the category of supplements which are not HSA-qualified.
However, if the probiotics are recommended by a doctor as treatment for a specific medical condition, then they may be HSA-qualified.
“In short, probiotic supplements taken for general gut health are not HSA eligible. Probiotic supplements that are recommended to you by a health professional for a specific condition are HSA eligible.”
What do I need to buy probiotics with my HSA?
If you can get a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from your doctor, you may be able to pay for probiotics with your HSA. Medical necessity implies that taking probiotics is deemed to be necessary for managing your current condition. For example, probiotics for managing ulcerative colitis.
So, how can I get a Letter of Medical Necessity for probiotics
Obtaining a letter of medical necessity for probiotics requires you to first consult with your clinician.
Your medical history and current condition will be thoroughly assessed to determine if probiotics are a necessary part of your treatment plan. Your doctor will then provide you with a comprehensive explanation of how probiotics will be medically advantageous to you. If it is determined that probiotics are necessary, your doctor will issue a letter of medical necessity.
To demonstrate that the expense is a qualified medical expense under your HSA plan, you must submit the letter of medical necessity, along with any pertinent documentation concerning the purchase of probiotics, to your HSA provider.
The bottom line
In summary, not all probiotics are eligible for HSA. However, if your doctor recommends probiotics to treat or prevent a specific condition, a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) can make probiotics eligible. Therefore, your best bet is to consult with your doctor to determine if probiotics are medically necessary for your condition and covered by your HSA.