Use it or lose it: Top 3 ways to spend your FSA dollars before December 31

Pharmacy ShopperThe end of 2014 is fast approaching, which means you may only have a few weeks left to use up any funds left in your medical flexible spending account (FSA). Remember, because of IRS regulations, you forfeit unused FSA balances at the end of your plan year.[1] If you don’t use the funds by December 31, you lose them![2]

Stumped about what qualifies for an eligible FSA purchase? Read on for our top 3 ways to use your FSA funds before 2014 is over:

1. Deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance for covered medical and dental services.
It’s time to schedule those doctors’ and dentist appointments that you’ve been neglecting all year. Get those preventive health visits or teeth cleanings in before the end of the year, and you can use your FSA funds to cover your copayments, coinsurance, or deductible.

2. Covered prescription drug and vision expenses.
Stock up on contact lenses or contact lens solution, get a new pair of eyeglasses, and schedule a vision exam. Many vision expenses are eligible for reimbursement, so now’s the time to take care of any vision services you’ve been putting off.

Prescription drugs are also eligible for reimbursement, so another way to use all your FSA funds is to make sure you fill all of your prescriptions before the year ends.

3. Over-the-counter medications with a prescription.
If you have a condition that requires over-the-counter medications, you may be eligible for reimbursement for these medications, as long as you have a prescription. This may include pain relievers, antacids, antihistamines, decongestants, and cold medicines. Dietary supplements or vitamins (e.g., fiber supplements or calcium) may also be eligible if prescribed by your doctor.[3]

For a full list of the FSA expenses that may be reimbursed, refer to IRS Publication 502, which is available online at


  • Generally you have time in early 2015 to submit FSA expenses incurred in 2014. This run-out period allows you some time to pull together all your receipts and submit them.
  • FSA rules vary by plan so you should confirm your plan’s specific FSA rules with your employer or plan sponsor.
  • You can use your medical flexible spending account to cover eligible expenses for you and your eligible dependents. Eligible dependents include any person you claim as a dependent for federal income tax purposes.

[1] Unless your FSA plan offers the 2 ½-month extension or the $500 rollover option.
[2] Depending upon plan design.
[3] Items used to maintain general health (e.g., Chapstick® or One-a-Day® vitamins) are not eligible.


IBX Insights Team

Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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Common questions about the 2015 open enrollment period for individuals

There’s a lot to know about enrolling in health coverage, whether you’re a first-time buyer or renewing a plan. So we’ve compiled a list of questions you may have about enrolling in a plan, renewing a plan, and paying your premium.

Enrollment | Renewals | Payments | ID cards


How do I enroll?
If you’re a first-time buyer, it’s easiest to enroll online, but you can also call 1-888-475-6206 to enroll or request an enrollment kit. If you’re a returning member and you need to renew your plan or choose a new one, skip ahead to the Renewals section.

How long do I have to enroll?
Open enrollment for 2015 coverage runs from November 15, 2014, through February 15, 2015, but there are a number of key dates you’ll want to be aware of.

November 15, 2014 – Open enrollment began

December 15, 2014 – Last day to apply for coverage with a January 1, 2015 effective date

January 15, 2015 – Last day to apply for coverage with a February 1, 2015 effective date

February 15, 2015 – Last day to apply for 2015 coverage with a March 1, 2015 effective date

If you experience a qualifying life event, you may be able to get coverage sooner through a Special Enrollment Period.

What plans are available for 2015?
We have a wide variety of plans available for you to choose from. Compare plans and benefits.

How do I confirm my coverage and eligibility once I’ve enrolled?
If you purchased a plan directly from Independence Blue Cross, you will receive an email that day to confirm your application was received. All new members will receive a letter from Independence Blue Cross confirming your enrollment within 7-10 days after your application was submitted.


How do I renew my current plan?
If you do not make a change by December 15, 2014, you will automatically be renewed in the same plan (if your current plan is available), or a similar plan (if your current plan is not available). You can view your renewal summary and new rate for 2015 coverage by logging into your account and clicking View Your Renewal Summary. If you do not remember your username and password, you can reset your account.

If you received a subsidy in 2014, it’s important to make sure you get the most accurate subsidy for your 2015 health plan to avoid tax penalties. Update your application at or contact the Marketplace at 1-800-318-2596 with your household income to confirm your 2015 subsidy amount and renew your health plan.

Who can I contact for help with my plan renewal?
We encourage you to log in to your account to view your renewal information first. You can also speak with one of our agents by calling 1-888-475-6206.

Can I change plans for 2015 coverage?
Yes, you can change plans for 2015 coverage by logging into your account and selecting Shop Plans. For coverage to be effective for January 1, 2015, you will need to select your new plan by December 15, 2014.

Changes to your plan will not appear in your member profile until approximately one week after your request. For example, if you make changes to your policy on a Saturday, you may not see those changes until the following Friday.

  • All changes must be made within one policy change request, otherwise you will need to wait approximately one week until you can submit another change.
  • If the effective date is in the future, you will find the requested changes to your plan information under “Open Policy Change Requests” until the actual effective date, at which time the updated policy information will move to the “Current Coverage” section.
  • At any stage before you submit your plan changes, you can withdraw your request by selecting “Return to Checklist/Withdraw.” Once you hit “Submit,” you cannot withdraw.

Do I need to do anything to renew with a subsidy?
It is important that you review your Marketplace application, and update your Marketplace application if necessary, to ensure that you receive the full amount of financial assistance that you may be eligible to receive in 2015. If you do not have the correct subsidy in 2015, you may be subject to a tax penalty at the end of the year for a subsidy that was too large. If you do not update your Marketplace application, you will automatically be enrolled in your renewing coverage with your 2014 subsidy amount.

If you have questions about your subsidy or need to update your subsidy amount, visit or contact the Marketplace at 1-800-318-2596. Not sure if you are eligible for a 2015 subsidy? Use our subsidy calculator to see if you may qualify.

Why don’t I see my 2015 renewal when I log in to my account?
If you purchased your 2014 health plan after November 1, 2014, you will not be automatically enrolled in a plan. Therefore, you will not see renewal information in your account. To enroll in a plan for 2015, you will need to create a new account and actively select a plan. You can do this by visiting, clicking Shop for a Plan, and selecting Shop Now.

How can I update the contact information in my account?
If you purchased your health plan directly from Independence Blue Cross and want to update your home address, phone number, date of birth, and other information associated with your account, log in to your account and click Request Change.
If you purchased your health plan from the Marketplace, visit or contact the Marketplace at 1-800-318-2596 to update your account information.


What are my payment options?
We have plenty of options available for you to pay your premium. The easiest and most convenient options allow you to pay by e-Bill on or pay by phone using our automated system. Learn more about payment options.

ID cards

When should I expect to receive my ID card?
You should receive your ID card by January 1.

If you do not have your ID card by January 1, 2015, you can log in to to print a temporary card.


IBX Insights Team

Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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Are you prepared for open enrollment?

Open Enrollment

This year, open enrollment for buying health insurance begins on November 15, and there are some important things you can do to get prepared.

Whether you’re a returning member or a first-time buyer, we have five tips to make open enrollment easier for you.

1. Make sure you can access your account.
If you purchased a plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace on for 2014, make sure you can log in to your account now. If you need your username or password reset, you can contact the Marketplace at 1-800-318-2596.

We encourage all members to make sure we have your correct email address and mobile phone number on file so you can receive important notifications. Visit to update or provide this information.

If you are a first-time buyer, you will need to set up an account when open enrollment begins, so skip to step 2.

2. Prepare your financial documents and health care budget.
The government will be providing subsidies to lower monthly premiums and reduce out-of-pocket costs for eligible shoppers. Use our subsidy calculator to see if you may be eligible. You will need your estimated household income to apply for a subsidy on If you received a subsidy in 2014, it is important that you review your Marketplace application to make sure the information is still current and correct. The Marketplace uses this information to determine the amount of any subsidies and lower copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles you may be eligible for. If you have any changes, you will be able to update your application when the Marketplace opens on November 15, 2014. If you like your plan and don’t have any changes to your Marketplace application, you don’t have to do anything. You’ll automatically be enrolled and just have to pay the monthly premium.

3. Get ready to shop.
If you want to shop for health plans online, it is important that you have the most up-to-date web browser. For the best user experience with the online shopping tool, please use Internet Explorer 9+ or Chrome 29+.

4. Make sure you have your enrollment information handy.
If you’re a returning member, print out the appropriate enrollment card below and use it to record important account information you’ll need when you apply. This way, the application process will go much quicker.

New members can also use these cards to document plan choices for 2015.
Enrollment card for plans purchased on the Health Insurance Marketplace
Enrollment card for plans purchased on ibx4you

5. Register for a meeting.
We offer in-person assistance at events and select CVS locations as well as webinars, and other ways to help you get more information about open enrollment. View calendar of events.

If you’re a first-time buyer who wants an easy way to learn about how health insurance works and how to choose the right plan for you, visit our new site, Health Insurance Basics.


Paula Sunshine

As Vice President of Consumer Sales and Marketing at Independence Blue Cross, Paula Sunshine is accountable for the Individual Under-65 market segment. In this capacity, she is directly responsible for developing and executing all direct-to-consumer marketing and sales capabilities. In addition, Ms. Sunshine is accountable for insuring the delivery of market-competitive products and pricing as well as operational readiness for the Consumer market.

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Top 3 ways to reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes

Glucose levelDiabetes awareness is a cause very close to my heart. Diabetes affects cousins on both sides of my family, but when I was younger, the only thing I knew about it was that at family parties my cousins had to have sugar-free soda or skip the cake. It’s only when I got older and learned more about diabetes did I fully understand the truth behind this disease — the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, the dangers of diabetes, and more importantly, how I could protect myself from developing Type 2 diabetes.

Today, 29.1 million people in the United States live with diabetes and another 86 million live with pre-diabetes. In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, I urge you to join the fight against this prevalent disease with these top 3 tips:

1. Know your risk.
Before you can reduce your risk, you need to know your risk. With the Harvard School of Public Health’s disease risk calculator, you can find out your risk for diabetes in minutes. Fill out a few simple questions and this tool can assess how likely you are to develop Type 2 diabetes.

2. Get some help with your diet.
One of the best things you can do to prevent Type 2 diabetes is to make healthy food choices. A registered dietitian can provide nutritional counseling and education on pre-diabetes and diabetes, and will help you plan meals that can reduce your risk or help you better manage your diabetes. Most Independence Blue Cross health plans include a dietitian benefit* that covers six visits annually with a registered dietitian at no cost to you. You can search for a participating registered dietitian using our online provider directory.

3. Make physical activity a priority.
Although regular physical activity is important for everyone, it’s even more important for those with diabetes or at risk for diabetes since exercise has been proven to lower blood glucose levels.

But don’t be intimidated by the prospect of becoming more active. You don’t have to take up marathon training to see an effect. Fitting physical activity into your day is as easy as raking leaves, walking around while on the phone, or dancing while cooking dinner. Start small with these creative ways to get moving each day.

*Not all employers offer nutrition counseling visits as part of their health plan benefits. Please contact Customer Service or your benefits administrator to determine if this benefit applies to your coverage.


IBX Insights Team

Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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Top 3 ways to ensure “fall back” doesn’t hold you back

Daylight Saving TimeAn extra hour of sleep. To many it’s as elusive and coveted as the Holy Grail, and on Sunday, November 2, it will be there, within our grasp. As Daylight Saving Time ends, we will turn back the clock, snuggle into our cozy beds, and peacefully enjoy our extra Zzzs.

Not so fast, Rip Van Winkle. While 60 little minutes of sleep may not seem like much, it’s just enough to throw you – and especially your children – right off your beloved schedules. Here’s how to hold fast.

1. Don’t sleep in
Go to bed and wake up at your normal times. Your body wants to wake with the sun, and fighting it with the covers over your head will only lengthen your adjustment period.

2. Savor the sun
Earlier sunrise means more time for you to enjoy it. Help adjust your biological clock, or circadian rhythm, by getting outside in the sunshine for 20 to 30 minutes in the a.m. and reminding your cells that, yes, it really is morning.

3. Don’t forget breakfast
A potentially sleepier morning only intensifies your need to enjoy a nutritional kick-start. Opt for something that combines whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein for the best boost of energy.

Sticking with a normal sleep and wake schedule once the switch is made is also essential. It may take a few days, but soon your new morning with be as natural as the sunrise outside your window.

DreamIt Demo Day #DreamItHealth – Bringing Health Care Innovation to Philadelphia

DreamIt Health

Divya Dhar, CEO & Co-Founder Seratis Health – DreamIt Health Class of 2013.

Today is DreamIt Health Philadelphia 2014 Demo Day, a big day for the Philadelphia health care innovation community!

Over the past four months, nine exciting startup companies recruited from across the country have been working full time right here in Philadelphia. They bring experience, passion, and energy to nine different ideas that they hope to turn into successful companies. Today, with mentorship from Independence Blue Cross (Independence) and Penn Medicine, they “graduate,” pitching their products and business models to a room of over 300 investors, industry leaders, and potential customers. I am very excited to see how the companies have progressed since starting the Dream It Health Philadelphia 2014 program in July.

The DreamIt Partnership
It’s an honor to be involved in this program. DreamIt Health Philadelphia is the first-ever health accelerator located in Philadelphia, and the first in the nation to be sponsored by a city’s leading health system and a region’s largest health insurance provider. This is the second year Independence has sponsored this accelerator with Penn Medicine and DreamIt Ventures. It’s a great way to bring new health innovators to the region and help realize our vision of Philadelphia as a magnet nationally for health care innovation.

Many of my colleagues at Independence Blue Cross work closely with DreamIt companies, providing meaningful real-world feedback about the complexities of the health care industry to entrepreneurs as they develop their product offerings. We also make connections and offer access to resources that would, otherwise, take these teams years to duplicate. But the learning isn’t just a one-way proposition. Working with these energetic, passionate, and creative entrepreneurs provides a whole new perspective to Independence employees; their ideas energize and inspire us as we work to re-imagine health and health care for our members.

DreamIt Class of 2013
One of our biggest successes from last year’s DreamIt class is that the majority of companies who came to the region for the program have stayed and grown right here in Philadelphia, adding to our thriving health tech innovation community. Here are a few shining examples from the class of 2013:

  • Biomeme transforms your smartphone to a real-time DNA lab.
  • Seratis brings doctors and nurses out of the pager era by allowing healthcare providers to coordinate, track, and analyze care across the team.
  • Fitly combines personalized healthy meal planning with easy recipes, fresh ingredients, and free home delivery into a dynamic mobile-web app.

I can’t wait to see what’s next for the 2014 class of companies. For real-time updates, follow along on Twitter #DreamItHealth or check out the DreamIt website for video clips of the pitches in the upcoming days.

Let us know which company you think has the best new idea!


Tom Olenzak

Tom Olenzak is director of innovation and corporate development for Independence Blue Cross (IBX). Through the Independence Center for Health Care Innovation, which seeks to develop a culture of innovation within IBX, Olenzak is responsible for leading IBX’s efforts to identify external sources of innovation to support the company’s objects; and helping lead a dialog among institutions across the health care ecosystem to address some of the largest issues impacting the cost and quality of health care. Olenazak is also manager of the IBX Strategic Innovation Portfolio, which makes investments in venture capital funds and emerging health care information technology companies that support IBX’s strategic initiatives. Olenzak has twenty years of extensive entrepreneurial, venture capital, and senior management experience in the health care and information technology industries. He has held operating and investment positions at several health care and technology companies, including Safeguard Scientifics, First Consulting Group, and Integrated Systems Consulting Group. Olenzak is a graduate of Princeton University and lives in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

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What does Fearless mean to you?

We’re excited to introduce a new series of Fearless Is TV commercials, which build on the popularity of our recent Live Fearless ad campaign.

If you recognize elements of your own life when you watch them, there’s a simple reason — these new commercials feature ordinary people in everyday situations. What makes them resonate is that they capture the fearlessness it takes to live life to the fullest, like letting go of your inhibitions or running faster than you thought you could.

Just like our Live Fearless ads, they reinforce the message that, with an Independence Blue Cross health insurance plan, you have the freedom and security to live the life you want.

Coming soon: Fearless Is Facebook sweepstakes

If you had a chance to do something daring — something you may have only dreamed about doing — would you take it?

That’s the inspiration behind our Fearless Is Facebook sweepstakes. Stay tuned for more details and for a chance to enter to win one of several one-of-a-kind Fearless Is experiences.

Like our Facebook page to find out when the contest starts!


Mary Eileen O'Connor

I am a senior copywriter at IBX. For me, the key to personal health and wellness is having simple goals and sticking to them — whether it’s drinking more water, working in a few extra steps each day, or just making time to unplug once in a while. When I’m not busy wordsmithing, my favorite ways to unwind include enjoying local arts and culture, reading a good book, and watching TV cooking shows.

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Top 3 Festive Fall 5ks

Fall RunOctober is here, which means the air is crisp, the leaves are changing, and costumes are acceptable attire. It also just happens to be my favorite time of year to run a race. You can’t beat the low humidity and cool air that makes running outside a treat every time. What better way to usher in the Halloween season than by signing up for a festive run where costumes are strongly encouraged?

1. Rest in Peace 5K
It doesn’t get more Halloween-festive than a nighttime run through a cemetery. Break out your most creative costume and join the goblins and ghouls for the Rest in Peace 5k race at the historic Laurel Hill Cemetery on October 11 at 5 p.m. And, it’s no trick: runners will be treated to an after-party complete with food, free beer, and music that is sure to raise the dead.

2. Glow-in-the-Dark Color Run
This might not be a traditional costume race per se, but if there’s something cooler than running at night with glow-in-the-dark gear, I can’t think of what it is. And, Philly has the distinct honor of being the first city to ever host a nighttime, glow-in-the-dark color run. On October 18, runners will get glow-in-the-dark shirts and other gear and will be doused in glowing colors at each kilometer of this 5k race. Plus, the end of the race will feature a Finish Festival — complete with fireworks, dancing, music, and more colors. This race is sure to sell out, so register now.

3. The Skeleton Skurry
On October 25, head to Hatboro for The Skeleton Skurry — a great race for the entire family. Costume-clad kids can participate in the Mile Fitness Trail run with YMCA staff, while you tackle the USATF-certified 5k course in your best zombie costume, or you can run alongside your kids in the mile race. Prizes will be given out for various costume categories.

Not only are races like these fun, but they’re also great training for the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. Scheduling shorter races throughout the fall and winter will keep you in shape and more prepared for next year’s Blue Cross Broad Street Run on May 3, 2015.


Sarah B.

As a copywriter at IBX, I frequently write about health and wellness topics. I am passionate about reading, writing, and travel. Because I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like, I am always trying to stay active — whether that’s running, spinning, hiking, yoga, Pilates, or Barre. I also try to balance out dessert with fresh, in-season veggies from my local farmer’s market, and I love trying out new recipes.

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Top 3 ways to make an on-the-run lunch healthy

Takeout SaladI usually brown bag it for lunch…it’s healthier, it’s quick, and it’s better on my budget. But when I forget to pack (or leave my lunch sitting on the counter), working in Center City means I have unlimited lunch options. Unfortunately, it also makes it hard to choose a healthy option when lobster mac ‘n cheese or a Philly cheesesteak is right around the corner. I’ve come up with a few tricks to make lunchtime choices that make me healthy and happy.

1. Go bowl-ing
Choose-your-own bowls and salads are a great way to customize your lunch and focus on healthy, delicious options. The secret is going light on noodles, rice, and the like, and focusing on protein and veggies. I like Agno Grill when I’m in the city. You get a choice of protein that includes flavorful basics like chicken and veggies, but you can also choose lamb meatballs, falafel, and salmon. Plus, you can fill it with a variety of roasted vegetable options and top it off with balsamic or lemon oregano to add light flavor. Chipotle is good option, too…and they’re everywhere.

2. Make it a liquid lunch
Some days call for a liquid lunch…but, I’m not talking about a Mad Men-style martini break. Smoothies offer endless options for a healthy, delicious lunchtime treat…for even the pickiest of palates. If you’re in the city, try Sook Hee’s Produce & Squeeze Juice Bar beneath the Comcast Center. Whether you want a fresh juice or smoothie – Sook Hee’s has it all from kale to beets to ginger root.). And, the best part is, you don’t have to worry about cleaning the juicer afterward! You can choose from plenty of fresh salads and sandwiches, homemade Korean food, and snacks to complement your drink of choice.

3. Wok at lunch
Sometimes you just need a little stir fry…and if you make the right choices, it’s a healthy bet. Be sure to focus on lean proteins and veggies, and don’t overdo it on the sauces. When I’m in the mood to stir it up, I head to Honeygrow. They stir it up fresh every time. Added bonus: They also have salad and smoothie options and for dessert…a honey bar!

What are your favorite healthy lunch places?

The inclusion of the above links does not imply endorsement.



I'm a copywriter at IBX and have worked here for the last 5 years. Now that I'm a new mom, it's even harder to find time to exercise and eat healthy. But I also have a darling little girl reminding me why I need to take care of myself. Follow my posts as I strive for balance when it comes to leading a happy, healthy life.

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Top 3 tips for picking your own produce

Apple pickingNothing could be a more healthy fall activity than picking (and eating!) your own fruit and vegetables — and now’s the perfect time to pack up your friends, kids, and neighbors and pick a freezerful of this season’s harvest.

1. What to pick?
From apples and pumpkins to kale and cauliflower, fall’s bounty is amazing. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find growing in our region of the country:

  • Lima beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins and squash
  • Assorted herbs
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Grapes

2. How much to pick — a bushel or a peck?
Before you go and fill the back of your car with apples … or pumpkins … or beans (and your house with fruit flies), here’s a look at how much “food” your effort will yield:

  • 8 apples make 3 cups of applesauce or 1 apple pie.
  • 1 bushel of grapes makes 16 quarts of juice.
  • 2 quarts of grapes makes 1 quart of jelly.
  • 2.5 – 3 pounds of tomatoes make 1 quart canned.
  • A 5-pound pumpkin will yield 4 cups of mashed, cooked pulp (enough for about 2 pies).
  • A bushel is equal to approximately 8 (dry) gallons. There are 4 pecks in a bushel.

3. Where to pick?
There are many pick-your-own farms to choose from in our area, but why not choose to go organic? (It’s like winning the pickers’ trifecta: local, seasonal, and organic!) Check out these farms:

  • Taylor River Side Farm
    5 Taylors Lane, Cinnaminson, NJ
    Just 25 minutes outside of Philadelphia on the banks of the Delaware is the Taylor family’s, 200+-year-old, beautiful, earth-friendly, sustainable, organic farm. Either pick-your-own or shop at their market and experience the Garden State at its absolute best.
  • Indian Orchards
    24 Copes Lane, Media, PA
    Called the best kept secret in Delaware County, family-owned Indian Orchards offers already-picked or pick-your-own sustainably or organically grown fruits and vegetables.
  • Find a farm near you
    Find local pick-your-own farms and fruit and vegetable festivals. Search by State and region and find helpful picking tips and resources for preserving your produce.
    • avatar


      The problem with being a copywriter who writes about health and wellness is that I struggle daily with what I know I should do and what I want to do. Some days I practice what I preach — or as they say around here “Walk the Talk” — some days I don’t. Regardless, I love what I do, where I work, and the IBX members I write for.

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