Health FSA open enrollment began October 1; Enrollment must reach 5% or benefit may be lost
CLEVELAND, October 3 — As a reminder, open enrollment is currently running until midnight November 2, 2013, for the Health Flexible Spending Account Plan (Health FSA). The Health FSA plan is available to BLET represented engineers working on participating railroads, and all train service employees of Texas Mexican Railway.
This important health care benefit, secured by the BLET during the most recent national contract, is in danger of falling by the wayside unless membership participation increases. At least 5% of eligible engineers must participate in the Health FSA in the 2014 Plan Year, and 7.5% in the 2015 and subsequent Plan Years, or the Carriers will have the right to terminate the plan beginning with the following Plan Year. The deadline to register for the 2014 benefit year is November 2, 2013, and the BLET is encouraging all members to sign up.
Who is eligible?
Except as noted at the end of this paragraph, locomotive engineers and Tex-Mex train service employees covered by the Health & Welfare portion of the most recent National Agreement, dated January 5, 2012, are eligible to participate in the FSA plan. The national Health FSA is distinct and separate from the on-property BNSF Health FSA plan. The participation rates identified in this News Flash do not apply to BNSF engineers.
What is the FSA Plan?
The FSA Plan, administered by United Healthcare, is designed to allow you to use pretax dollars to pay for certain medical expenses that are not covered under any health plan (including a railroad health & welfare plan) or any other source. You are then reimbursed for eligible expenses from your FSA, which means you’ll be using pretax dollars to pay for those expenses. A PDF on the National Division website has more info (PDF).
What can you save?
You could save hundreds of dollars in taxes each year with a health FSA. The amount you could save in taxes depends on how much you set aside and the amount of your expenses. A specific example can be found in a PDF on the BLET website.
Also, the Health FSA Calculator Tool allows you to input annual estimated out-of-pocket costs for medical services (such as deductibles, co-payments, eye exams, dental exams), then shows you how much money you will save on taxes by using the Health FSA. To check out the potential savings for you and your family, visit the Health FSA Calculator Tool here.
Why you should participate?
The FSA program will allow you to put aside your own dollars on a pre-tax basis to be available for reimbursement — to you — of eligible and qualified health care expenses not covered by your medical, vision, or dental plans, as well as other approved Health and Welfare expenses, for which coverage is not afforded.
What is covered?
Certain medical, pharmacy, dental and vision expenses are eligible for the program. A complete list of covered items and procedures is in a PDF on the BLET website.
How do I sign up?
Information to sign up for the Health FSA is contained in the open enrollment packets. Eligible members will receive this information in the near future, prior to the open enrollment period, which runs from October 1, 2013 until November 2, 2013. This year, open enrollment is again being done on-line. Please call Railroad Enrollment Services at 1-888-298-9754 if you have any questions.
Use it or lose it?
Per federal regulations, you must use all the money in your Health FSA for expenses incurred during your Period of Coverage (for the 2014 Plan Year, the period from January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014) or you will forfeit the unused portion. This provision is typically referred to as “use it or lose it” and any unused funds will be diverted to pay for the plan’s administration costs. Members are advised to keep this in mind when making their elections for how much money to put into the plan at first so that you know for certain that you will easily spend all the funds. However, this should not be a reason to not take advantage of a great benefit such as this, especially because you can put as little as $10 per month ($120 total for the Plan Year) as the minimum to participate in the Health FSA.
The new plan year begins January 1, 2014, but you will need to make your elections during the upcoming open enrollment period or you will miss the train on this one!
Thursday, October 03, 2013