If you’ve set up a video call with your doctor rather than going into their office in person, that’s considered a “telemedicine” appointment. Telemedicine, or sometimes more broadly defined as “telehealth” is the practice of getting medical care or counseling from a doctor at a distance through telecommunications. Being able to set up a video call with your doctor from home has been a huge help to many patients, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Studies have shown that many Americans skipped out on routine and even emergency medical visits because they were worried about catching the virus at their doctor’s office or hospital. Physician surveys found that as many as 79% of physicians were having fewer patient visits compared to before the pandemic.
With telemedicine appointments, more Americans were able to meet with healthcare providers virtually for the vital care and prescriptions they needed. The big question is—are telemedicine appointments covered by health accounts the same way that in-person doctor’s visits are?
That question was answered once the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was released. The CARES Act allowed for more items and services that help prevent the spread of the coronavirus to be eligible for reimbursement through health spending accounts and reimbursement plans, like health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).
In this article, we’ll go over how you can get your telemedicine appointments reimbursed with your HRA as well as other expenses that were made HRA-eligible through the CARES act.
Can I use my HRA for telemedicine?
The short answer? Yes! Any visits you have with a doctor—whether in-person, over the phone, or through video chat—are always reimbursable through your HRA.
In addition, HSA- and FSA-qualified health plans were expanded by the CARES act to cover telemedicine and remote care services before a participant meets their deductible. However, normal cost-sharing may still be required for telehealth visits, like co-payments after the deductible is met.
In order to get your appointment reimbursed through your HRA, whether it’s in-person or through telecommunications, you’ll need to submit documentation that shows proof of purchase.
Your proof of purchase needs to include:
- The specific service you received
- The date you received the service
- The cost of the service to you
What else does the CARES act cover?
IRS Announcement 2017-07 extended the list of medical expenses that are HRA-qualified to include personal protective equipment (PPE) that helps prevent the spread of the virus.
Items that were added include:
- Face masks
- Hand sanitizer
- Sanitizing wipes
That means if you’re purchasing these items for the primary use of protecting you and your family from COVID-19, you can get them reimbursed, tax-free, with your HRA. You’ll simply provide the same proof of purchase that’s required with a doctor’s visit in order to be reimbursed.
In addition, the CARES Act permanently reinstated changes that allow over-the-counter medications to be reimbursed without a prescription, as well as allow for certain menstrual care products (including tampons, pads, liners, and cups) to be reimbursed.
An HRA is an excellent resource to get significant savings on a wide variety of healthcare expenses, including telemedicine appointments, all on a tax-free basis. With an HRA, you can get reimbursed for expert medical counseling and care from the comfort of your own home, as well as purchase personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of COVID-19.