What does “dual purpose” item mean?

dual purpose supplements image

If you’ve read our other blog “Wait, what do you mean these aren’t eligible under my FSA?” or if you’ve used your flexible spending account to pay for purchases in the past, there’s a good chance you’ve run into the term “dual purpose”.

So what does it mean when something is a dual purpose item?

Defining dual purpose items

Well, in short, it means an item that is eligible that isn’t always eligible –it’s only eligible under certain circumstances.

Let’s take massage therapy as an example. While it might feel like every time you get a massage, it’s therapeutic, you normally can’t pay for your massage from your FSA.

But let’s modify the situation a little bit: You go to your annual check-up and your doctor tells you she wants you to get massage therapy. She writes you a note for it. Now if you go in for a massage, you still can’t pay for it with your FSA. However.

You can definitely reimburse yourself from your FSA for the massage therapy. Because your doctor said it was medically necessary and gave you express instructions to pursue care from a massage therapist. Additionally, your doctor must complete a Letter of Medical Necessity (sometimes called a Certificate of Medical Necessity) for you to be reimbursed from your FSA.

Other examples of dual purpose items

Examples of other items that require a doctor’s approval in order to be reimbursed from your FSA:

  • Calcium supplements
  • Fiber supplements
  • Herbal medicines
  • Homeopathic remedies
  • Hormone therapy
  • Joint supplements
  • Nasal strips (e.g. Breathe Right)
  • Vaporizers/humidifiers
  • Vitamins/minerals/supplements

A few things to keep in mind about dual purpose items:

You will need a medical professional’s approval to buy the dual purpose item. A medical professional will need to fill out a letter of medical necessity for the dual purpose item to be recognized as eligible. Have your doctor fill out this form and submit with with your claim to get reimbursed.

You will most likely not be able to pay for the item from your card directly. See our infographic with best tips on claim submission.

Get more info on eligible items

Check out more about dual purpose items and other eligible expenses in our blog “Top 8 places to use your Health FSA“.