SAN FRANCISCO -- Visa USA is making it easier for consumers to access their health benefits accounts.
The company has announced that it will be the first organization to adopt a new industry standard list designed to clearly identify items sold over the counter that qualify as an eligible medical expense for health benefit accounts.
Developed by the Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc., the comprehensive list will be available to merchants that have implemented Visa's patent-pending auto-substantiation enhancement, which provides real-time substantiation of qualified, medical expense purchases made with a Visa employee benefit debit card.
"We've set out to create a new industry standard list to fill in where the IRS guidance leaves off," said Tom McCormick, EBIA's founder and chairman. "We're pleased Visa is on board and has chosen to incorporate our list into its auto-substantiation capability. The list will help merchants, employers and TPAs identify qualifying over the counter items and properly handle the transactions."
Launched in late 2005, Visa's auto-substantiation capability makes it easier for Flexible Spending Account and Health Reimbursement Arrangement cardholders to make qualified medical purchases at a broad range of merchants ranging from health care providers like pharmacies and doctors' offices, to supermarkets or discount stores.
When a consumer uses a Visa FSA or HRA debit card for payment at a participating merchant's checkout-counter, the merchant's electronic cash register will identify the eligible benefit card and compare the purchased items to the list of qualified medical items by its stock keeping unit (SKU) number.
The cost of the qualified medical items is deducted from available funds in the consumer's FSA/HRA account when the Visa employee benefit card is swiped at the point-of-sale. For the cost of those remaining items not included on the approved item list, another form of payment will be required and a "split tender" transaction will be prompted.
According to Visa, the result is a more streamlined claims process for plan administrators while eliminating the need for receipt requests from participating employees after a qualified medical expense is paid.
"Up until this point, there hasn't been a standard list that can be used across merchants to ensure consistent identification of eligible items," said Stacy Pourfallah, vice president, Prepaid Healthcare Products for Visa USA. "The new list combined with Visa's auto-substantiation capability will provide merchants with a complete solution to validate medical purchases, while simplifying the payment and claims management process for benefit administrators. In the process, Visa cardholders will have greater convenience and flexibility."
More than 3,500 over-the-counter medical items eligible for FSA and HRA reimbursement--ranging from Ace bandages to Zantac--will be included in the initial list, with easy to implement updates expected to be shared with merchants quarterly. --firstname.lastname@example.org