Question of the Month: What the heck is a dual-purpose item and is it an eligible expense?

Dear Gina: I recently suffered a back injury and have scheduled massage therapy sessions. I was doing research about whether massage therapy would be considered an eligible expense and the term “dual-purpose” kept coming up. Can you explain what this is and if my therapy would indeed be considered an FSA eligible expense?

A: A dual-purpose item is one that does just that – serves two purposes. The purpose may be medical, but also contains a hygiene, cosmetic, or general health element. For a dual-purpose product to be considered an eligible expense, it must be a) a medical necessity, regardless of the nature of the other purpose, and b) prescribed by your doctor to treat a specific illness, condition, or injury.

You are correct that massage therapy is considered a dual-purpose item. Other common products that fall into this category are vitamins, supplements, homeopathic remedies, and hormone therapy. Even baby formula can be eligible if it is necessary for the health of the infant.

In your situation, for your massage therapy to be considered an eligible expense (and for any purchase of a dual-purpose product) you must receive a Letter of Medical Necessity from your doctor. The letter should outline the specific diagnosis or condition that necessitates the need for the treatment. You must provide that form when filing a claim for reimbursement. (Most likely you will not be able to use your FSA debit card to pay for the therapy, rather you will need to file a claim.)

A great resource for determining if an item is dual-purpose can be found at the FSA Store’s Complete FSA Eligibility List library. You can search for your item, and it will indicate whether or not the item will require a Letter of Medical Necessity.

– Gina



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