Do you need to spend those pre-tax medical expenses? Food and exercise may qualify.

Now you can use your pre-tax dollars to buy certain types of healthy foods, gym memberships and even fitness trackers.

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA) allow you to set aside money before taxes to pay for qualified medical expenses, including medical, dental, prescription and vision bills. But many people don’t realize they may be eligible to spend those funds on a range of other options, including certain meal kits, gym memberships, protein powders, supplements, fitness trackers and even saunas.

Meal kit company Daily Harvest began accepting HSA and FSA funds this year after partnering with a service called Truemed, which works with eligible businesses to help customers determine if they qualify for certain HSA and FSA funds. Health-related products and services. In addition to Daily Harvest, the company works with a variety of health and fitness companies, including CrossFit, Barrys, CorePower Yoga, InsideTracker and Viome, which offers gut microbiome testing and personalized diet plans.

Truemed ​​has only partnered with a handful of food retailers so far, including Sakara, a plant-based food delivery service that offers smoothie bowls, veggie burgers and burgers made with tricolor quinoa, roasted carrots, Brussels sprouts and sprouts. of winter sun salad and other meals. Honey Dijon Sauce. But Truemed ​​co-founder Calley Means said the company plans to announce more partnerships with other big food brands soon.

Buy health with pre-tax dollars

Here’s how it works. You can start with Truemed ​​and then click on the shopping portal. You can shop by category and choose from Healthy Food, Supplements, Fitness, Health Technology, Sauna & Cold Baths, Sleep & Home, or Mental Health. Or, you may visit a company website that says the HSA/FSA qualifies for Truemed. Clicking on any of these options will take you to a form to determine if you qualify. If you are, Truemed ​​will generate a medical necessity letter, which is essentially a doctor’s prescription for food or exercise.

Once approved, you can typically pay for food, memberships, or other expenses with a PayFlex card, or you can pay with a credit card and then submit receipts and proof of medical necessity through your HSA/FSA account for reimbursement. In most cases, consumers pay nothing, but a few merchants may require customers to pay a $30 fee. Means said Truemed ​​uses the highest level of data privacy protection and will not sell your email address or other information.

Means, a former food industry lobbyist, said Americans hold about $150 billion in HSA and FSA accounts combined. But that money is mostly spent on drugs and surgeries to treat chronic diseases rather than prevent them. Part of the reason is that many people with these accounts don’t know that, under federal law, they can use their HSA and FSA funds for nutritious meals and gym memberships.

Means said HSAs are really good public policy because they give consumers choice. It begs the question: Do you want to save money to get sick, or do you want to spend your tax-advantaged money on food to stay healthy?

While Truemed ​​has begun offering HSA/FSA-eligible food and fitness products that require a medical necessity letter, other sites, including the HSA Store and FSA Store, offer a variety of gadgets and amazing items that may also work Duty-free dollar purchases including menstrual products, heating pads, home first aid kits, massagers, and acne and skin care products. Some products, such as the Oura ring tracker, allow customers to use a PayFlex card at checkout.

Sarah, a software engineer who goes by @bbysarita on TikTok, uses her HSA account to pay for doctor’s appointments and buy items like sunscreen and a pair of Therabody compression boots. But it wasn’t until recently that she discovered she could use her HSA account to buy food. (Sarah asked that only her first name be used to protect her privacy.)

In November, she received an email from Daily Harvest announcing that customers could use their health savings or flexible spending accounts to purchase plant-based frozen treats like banana almond smoothies, chickpea and coconut curry bowls, and black bean chili.

She said in an email that they had things like mint chocolate smoothies that I didn’t have the time or energy to buy and prepare meals for. They also offer microwavable vegetable dishes that are perfect to take to school or work.

She was so excited about her tax-free meal plan that she posted a video about it on her TikTok account, which has 42,000 followers (she says Daily Harvest didn’t pay her to post the video).

“When I see them taking an HSA, it not only becomes a better choice financially in terms of time and finances, but it’s also more enjoyable,” she said.

Generally, the IRS does not allow pre-tax funds to be used to purchase a gym membership. But you can comply with IRS guidelines by getting a doctor’s certificate of medical necessity. As long as your doctor specifically says you need exercise to reverse, treat, or prevent a specific disease or condition, you’re following the rules.

Means said there have been visionary doctors who have written notes on diet and exercise before, but now are bringing it to the masses and making it seamless. Our goal is to open this up and direct HSA/FSA dollars toward healthy behaviors.

Although personal physicians can also prescribe exercise, many doctors are unfamiliar with the idea. Kevin Robertson, senior vice president at HSA Bank, one of the largest HSA providers, said this use of HSA/FSA funds is rare, mostly because people don’t know it’s possible.

CrossFit and OrangeTheory were among the first fitness companies to partner with TrueMed.

“We treat exercise like health care,” said Jenn Green. She owns a CrossFit gym in South Carolina and also manages operations for CrossFit’s headquarters U.S. affiliate.

She did a trial run at her gym and members and potential members were excited. Since September, approximately 500 CrossFit affiliates have signed on to the TrueMed platform.

Alexis Jaramillo, owner of Mt. Tabor CrossFit in Portland, Ore., said 10 members signed up in the first week. go out Doctor’s office.

Do you have questions about healthy eating?e-mail EatingLab@washpost.com We may answer your questions in a future column.

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