How to pay for home COVID tests with your FSA or HSA

When the government supply runs low, you can use your FSA or HSA funds to buy at-home COVID tests. Here's what we know.

Jessica Rendall Wellness Writer
Jessica is a writer on the Wellness team with a focus on health news. Before CNET, she worked in local journalism covering public health issues, business and music.
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Jessica Rendall
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As of Jan. 15, insurance companies are required to reimburse you for what you spend on at-home COVID-19 tests (up to eight tests per person or more if they're ordered by your doctor). 

What's more, everyone —  including those without private insurance — will be able to order four free COVID-19 tests per household through COVIDtests.gov starting the morning of Jan. 19 (the site is up a day early for testing). The tests from the government will typically ship within 7 to 12 days of ordering, the White House said. The US Postal Service said it will start shipping out tests in late January. Last Thursday, Biden said his administration was upping its promise of 500 million free tests to 1 billion.

But before the government stepped into the at-home COVID-19 test debacle, at-home COVID-19 tests were considered a medical expense if you have a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), according to the US Internal Revenue Service. Meaning, you can use either account to buy COVID-19 tests.

Read on for more info about using FSAs and HSAs to pay for COVID tests. You can also learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine mandate blocked by the Supreme Court, how to interpret the CDC's new isolation guidance and how to make sure your COVID-19 test isn't fake.

What is an FSA or HSA account? 

An HSA account is like a savings account with tax advantages you can use to pay for medical expenses, including exams, hospital stays, prescription drugs and more. It must be used with a high-deductible health insurance plan, but all the money stays in the account indefinitely, so you don't need to use it within a certain timeframe. 

An FSA account is similar to an HSA account in that it's used to pay for medical expenses and it's tax-free money taken from your paycheck. But FSAs have a use-it-or-lose-it rule and they're not as flexible as HSAs, though they don't require a high deductible health plan. 

How do I use my FSA or HSA to buy a home COVID-19 test? 

Aside from the COVID tests that are free from the government or "free" once your insurance company reimburses you, you can continue using your FSA or HSA funds to buy tests. 

You can pay for COVID-19 tests with your HSA or FSA debit card, if you have one, like you normally would (but make sure the tests are authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration first). You can also buy one with your regular debit or credit card, then file a reimbursement claim with your FSA administrator. But, because the government is also footing the bill for four tests per house as well, you may choose to spend your FSA or HSA funds on other medical or health expenses

But, as Verywell Health reported, an old notice from the IRS says that an HSA is used to pay for qualified medical expenses, but "only to the extent the expenses are not covered by insurance or otherwise." Home COVID-19 tests are now reimbursed by insurance, as well as available for free from the government. So, as is true with most things insurance-related, it might be best to call the people who handle your HSA or FSA claims for all of the details if you choose to buy using either account starting Jan. 15. 

This story will be updated as the free COVID-19 test program rolls out and more information becomes available. 

Read more: How to get 4 free COVID-19 test kits today through government website in less than 2 minutes

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.