QUESTION: For 2023, an employee elected $2,400 of health FSA coverage under our calendar-year cafeteria plan, which is funded solely through employee salary reductions and does not provide for carryovers or include a grace period. The employee has already incurred medical expenses equal to this amount in 2023 and wants to be reimbursed for the expenses now, even though she has only made health FSA salary reductions of $400 to date. Do we have to reimburse all of these expenses right away, or can we limit reimbursements to the amount our employee has already contributed and ask her to resubmit the remaining expenses as additional contributions are made?
ANSWER: Your employee must be reimbursed for all of her expenses now, assuming that the expenses are otherwise eligible for reimbursement (e.g., they are for medical care incurred during the current period of coverage, and appropriate substantiation has been provided). That’s because IRS requirements for health FSAs include a “uniform coverage” rule under which the maximum amount of reimbursement must be available at all times during the plan year (or other period of coverage), reduced only for any prior reimbursements for the same period. Reimbursement is deemed “available” under the uniform coverage rule if claims are paid at least monthly, or when an employee’s submitted claims reach a reasonable plan minimum (e.g., $50). Thus, reimbursements cannot be restricted to the amount of the employee’s contributions.
The uniform coverage rule also prohibits accelerating an employee’s salary reductions based on health FSA claims submitted or paid. Note that the uniform coverage rule does not apply to DCAPs, so reimbursements under a DCAP can be limited to the amount that has been contributed, less expenses already reimbursed.
For more information, see EBIA’s Cafeteria Plans manual at Sections XIX.D (“Health FSAs: There Must Be Uniform Coverage Throughout the Coverage Period”), XXIII.G (“Chart Comparing Health FSAs and DCAPs”), and XXIV.J (“DCAPs: Reimbursements Must Comply With FSA Rules (Except Uniform Coverage)”).
Contributing Editors: EBIA Staff.