Yes, the BrainSpan Core Assessment is a covered health expense; even if we just examine the independent utility and clinical value of the BrainSpan Omega-3 Index measurement which we will discuss in greater detail below. Special thanks to Dr. Bill Harris, PhD who contributed to this article.
For millions of Americans every year, it will be time to find a new health insurance plan or renew an existing one. But thankfully this blog is not about health insurance. This blog is about the BrainSpan Core Assessment and how it is covered by your Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA).
The BrainSpan Core Assessment is either a self-ordered or practitioner recommended test...and is a self-administered test the patient can do at-home – it does not require an office visit or a doctor’s order. In the situation where it is self-ordered online off of a website and where the patient self-administers the test, the cost of the test cannot be reimbursed by third party payers (insurance or Medicare). So we want to be sure to stick with the option (as it pertains to using HSA/FSA funds for the test) where it is recommended and administered by a practitioner.
When the test is ordered by a doctor, then it can be reimbursed, with either the physician’s office or the patient him/herself submitting for reimbursement. Therefore, the good news is that the BrainSpan Assessment, even if we just consider the Omega-3 Index and not the cognitive function, in most settings, can be covered by HSA/FSA plans. The fact that we pair it with a well validated and clinically accepted cognitive function test only secures the testing package as eligible not to mention the other fatty acids and clinical summary interpretations that we provide.
First, what are HSA/FSA accounts and how can they help your patients?
If your patient has a high deductible health insurance plan, an HSA would work in conjunction with a tax-free savings account from which you can pull money to pay for expenses not covered by a regular health plan. Healthcare.gov describes a high deductible health plan as one that carries a higher deductible than a traditional insurance plan, and that has a lower monthly premium.
The IRS defines a high deductible health plan as any plan with a deductible of at least $1,350 for an individual or $2700 for a family. In terms of how much you can contribute to an HSA, the IRS has set a limit for individual contributions at $3450; the limit for a family is $6900 as of the publication of this article.
So where can you go to set up an HSA?
Apparently, it’s as easy as visiting a local bank or talking to your stock broker, insurance company or credit union. TheBalance.com points out that banks, credit unions and insurance companies will only have their own specified plans to offer you. Brokers on the other hand will have several options.
The CollegeInvestor.com, which caters specifically to young adults, lists Fidelity, Lively, HSA Bank and Optum Bank as some of the leading choices for opening an HSA account. Optum bank is part of Optum, the technology services division for UnitedHealth Group. So if you work for a major employer, chances are this will be your HSA provider. There is also a robust search tool that will compare and contrast HSA providers for your patients, so they can make a truly informed decision.
According to HealthInsurance.org, an HSA account also functions as an interest-bearing nest egg that grows until you retire, similar to an IRA. In fact, a recent article comparing IRAs and HSAs said people might opt for the latter, especially if funds are limited. “Most people don’t think about an HSA … like a savings account. Instead, they think of it as an account where you set aside money to spend on healthcare items during the current year."
“That view needs to change,” the article said. “An HSA can be a great addition to an IRA or 401(k) plan, and if funds are limited it might be better to contribute to an HSA instead of the IRA.” Why? Because, as the article points out, “an HSA is like an IRA account on steroids.”
The author went on to explain that with a traditional IRA or 401(k), if you are eligible, you get a tax deduction for the amount you contribute to the plan. The money grows tax deferred, and then you pay taxes when you withdraw it in retirement.
But with an HSA, you get the same tax deduction when you contribute money, but when you use the money in your HSA for medical expenses and qualified health insurance premiums, it comes back out tax-free. “Where else do you get to contribute tax-deductible dollars and withdraw them tax-free? Nowhere else that I know of,” the author said.
The point of an HSA is to give you better control over how your patients spend that money on medical expenses. Some of the “expenses” covered by an HSA include deductibles, copays, coinsurance, vision and dental care, and yes, nutritional status tests like the BrainSpan which fits under the categories of “laboratory” or “diagnostic” tests.
So what about an FSA?
An FSA is also a tax-advantaged account that allows people to pay for qualified medical expenses and works in combination with any health plan. In fact, you don’t even need a health plan to get an FSA. Your FSA is set up by your patient's employer. An HSA by contrast can be set up by the patient or their employer, but only if they have a high deductible health plan.
Typically the money a patient puts into this account is funded through a payroll deduction. However, employers can also put money toward this account as well. Employees can use the full amount designated for their FSA even if the full amount has not been deposited by the employee/employer.
Like an HSA, the typical covered expenses by an FSA include deductibles, copays and coinsurance, as well as qualified medical expenses not covered by a patient's health plan. And yes, again, the BrainSpan Core Assessment would qualify because it is considered a laboratory or diagnostic test from the perspective of the Omega-3 Index (not to mention the cognitive function part of the assessment).
One of the biggest differences between an HSA and FSA is that the money in an FSA must be used within the year, or by March 15 of the following year. In other words, “use it or lose it”. And you can’t use the money in an FSA for anything but medical expenses.
As always, though, it is best to check with your own health savings plan if you’d like to verify this as a covered expense before purchase.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This test is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, prevent or mitigate any disease. This site does not offer medical advice, and nothing contained herein is intended to establish a doctor/patient relationship. Our lab is regulated under the Clinical Laboratory improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) and is qualified to perform high complexity clinical testing.