Can I pay weight loss expenses with my HSA?

As part of my participation in the personal finance bloggers weight loss challenge I decided to investigate what weight loss expenses I could pay for with my Health Savings Account (HSA).

The short answer is no, you can't use your health savings account to cover the cost of getting in shape but there are a few exceptions.

After taking my most pressing question, "Is the fact that my doctor told me I should lose weight at my last appointment enough to make a weight loss class eligible to be paid by my health savings account?" to several experts I asked Fred Adams, "The HSA Expert", to give it to me straight.

Whereas some industry insiders took a broad reading of the IRS guidelines, Adams was very clear in his response, "This [IRS publication 502] says if your doctor has diagnosed you have a specific disease, and his treatment is losing weight, then you could use your HSA funds to pay for weight lose items such as a weight watchers membership."

If you listen to this advice, you won't find yourself stress eating when the IRS asks to look at your Health Savings Account next April!

If you planned to finance your weight loss with your health savings account it's not a complete loss, there are a few things that you can pay for with your HSA.

Melanie Donaghy, VP of Online Insurance Services for Wells Fargo provided the following examples. "While a Health Savings Account cannot be used directly for health clubs and fitness regimens having an HSA can be part of an overall fitness lifestyle by enabling the user to pay for medical costs that often come with working out! Fitness related eligible medical expenses include -- cold/hot packs for injuries, pain relievers, bandages, chiropractic visits, arch supports, and therapeutic massage."

So, while you won't be paying for your new gym membership by way of your tax friendly health savings account, you can still make use of this money to achieve your fitness goals.

If you are unfortunate enough to have a specific disease or if your doctor has told you in the past that you should get your blood pressure down, it may be worth the office visit to see if he will prescribe weight loss to treat it.
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