Flexible Spending, big savings

FSA helps members save by using pre-tax dollars for certain health care expenses

Registration for the money-saving Flexible Spending Account (FSA) begins in just over two months, and members are encouraged to take advantage of this valuable new health and welfare benefit.

The benefit has been in place on the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe property for some time, so BLET National Vice President Dennis Pierce is familiar with the FSA program.

"With three children at home, two wearing glasses and two wearing braces, I dedicate money to my FSA every year and have never left any money in the account," Pierce said.

The benefit is new to BLET members working under the National agreement.

"What many members should know is that the Flexible Spending Account allows engineers to use pretax dollars to pay for covered medical expenses and covered childcare expenses that they would otherwise pay for with after tax dollars," Vice President Pierce said. "The end result is that all money dedicated to the FSA is treated like any other income tax deduction or 401k contribution; it lowers the engineer's taxable income at the end of the year. For every dollar put in the FSA, most engineers will save at least 25 to 30 percent of those dollars in tax liability that can then be spent on covered expenses.

"Covered medical expenses include prescription co-pays, Doctor visit co-pays and deductibles, costs for braces, glasses and contact lenses not covered by insurance, as well as many every day 'over the counter medications' like Tylenol and Maalox," Pierce said.

BLET National President Ed Rodzwicz also stressed the importance of membership participation in the Flexible Spending Account.

"It uses pre-tax dollars and members will realize significant savings," President Rodzwicz said. "It works for you and it saves you money. Please take advantage of this plan - it's a great benefit for our members."

However, the benefit will be lost unless membership participation increases. Side Letter #8 of the 2007 National Contract specifies that at least 5 percent of eligible BLET members must participate in the plan or it will be terminated as of December 31, 2009. Current participation levels are below the 5 percent threshold, and the BLET is encouraging all members to sign up once open enrollment begins.

Open enrollment begins each year in October for the following year and a form is available to calculate each member's predicted medical expenses for that year.

Members will be able to choose to participate in one of two programs:

More details will be provided when open enrollment begins. BLET members are encouraged to monitor the BLET website and newsletter for details regarding this money-saving plan.



© 2008 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen