Time running out on flexible spending accounts

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COLUMBIA – Holiday shopping for traditional gifts is over.  But as 2015 comes to an end, some people will shop more as they try to use up their flexible spending accounts. These accounts are tax-free and are used to pay for out-of-pocket health care expenses.  Most expire at year-end.

For businesses like Pearle Vision, this time of year means more customers as many families try to use up the remainder of their flexible spending accounts.  Accounts typically apply to doctor's appointments, over-the-counter medicines with a doctor's prescription, supplies like bandages and eyewear.

“We’ve been super busy. It’s been more busy than normal, and it always is toward the last two weeks of the year,” said Kaptola Baker, store manager at Pearle Vision.

Baker has worked at Pearle Vision for ten years, and she said she’s seen this influx of customers nearly every year since she’s been with the company.

“People don’t want to lose that money. They’ve paid in all year and they’re like ‘I don’t want to lose it’ so they’re just coming in to get whatever they can get,” said Baker.

In preparation for the end of the year, Baker said Pearle Vision expands its staff. Employees also familiarize themselves with any changes insurance companies make to their policies for the New Year.

But business won’t necessarily slow down after year-end.

“Some people are just really ready for Jan. 1 to come when their benefits kick in again,” said Baker.

Baker said she expects business return to normal at the end of January.