Healthcare Flexible Spending Account

The Healthcare Flexible Spending Account, offered under the Brown University Flex Plan, allows employees to set aside portions of salary on a pre-tax basis for health and/or dental expenses not covered by an insurance plan for reimbursement.

Examples of eligible health and/or dental care expenses are:

  • Coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles
  • Certain over-the-counter products
  • Dental, vision, and hearing expenses that aren't covered by the plan
  • Weight loss (i.e., obesity-related) and smoking cessation

For the current plan year or upon initial eligibility, employees may elect a minimum of $240 up to a maximum of $2,500 for eligible expenses incurred by the employee or eligible dependent(s).

If you enroll in Brown’s Consumer-Directed Health Plan administered by UnitedHealthcare, federal law prohibits you from receiving any reimbursement in 2017 from amounts contributed in 2016 to a flexible spending account.  You must spend your 2016 contributions by December 31, 2016.


Regular faculty, staff, and members of the Public Safety bargaining unit working 50+% time (based on academic year), and SEIU and USAW-RI bargaining unit members working 25+ hours/week are eligible to participate in the Healthcare Flexible Spending Account under the Brown University Flex Plan.

Claims can be submitted for expenses incurred by the employee, spouse, and eligible dependents. A person generally qualifies as a dependent if: (1) that person lives in the employee's home for the entire year as a member of the household (unless a full- time student under age 26) or is closely related to the employee; and (2) that person is a US citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the calendar year in which the employee's tax year begins; and (3) the employee provides more than half of the dependent's total support for the year.

For additional information about dependents, including children of divorced or separated parents, review Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Service Code or consult with a tax advisor.


Some covered expenses* for medical reimbursement include the following:

Ambulance hire Eye exams Nurses' expense and board
Braille books/magazines Eye glasses and contact lenses Nursing care
Crutches Hearing exams and aids Smoking cessation programs
Difference in cost between private
and semi-private hospital rooms
Health and dental copayments (e.g., the
20% payment you make for certain medical services)
Prescriptions, drugs, and
certain over-the-counter products
Electric wheelchair Health and dental deductibles Weight loss programs prescribed to
treat a specific medical condition

* to the extent that some services are not reimbursable under another policy, such as employee health coverage from the University

Covered expenses must be incurred during the plan year on or after the employee's date of eligibility. Under IRS regulations, expenses are incurred when the service is provided, not when the bill is paid.

Certain expenses specifically are NOT covered. A few examples are: the cost of health or dental insurance premiums, claims which are reimbursable under another policy, Medicare Part B premium costs, life insurance and income protection policies, illegal operations, travel for rest or change, and medically unnecessary cosmetic surgery. Fees for weight loss programs to benefit general health and health club dues are also ineligible for reimbursement.

Allowable Contribution

Employees may elect to set aside a minimum of $240 up to a maximum of $2,500 per year in a Health Flexible Spending Account. Brown will deduct the elected contribution in equal amounts among the number of regularly scheduled paychecks remaining in the calendar year.

Please note contributions may not be changed during the year.

Grace Period and Reimbursement

There is a 2 1/2 month grace period following the end of the plan year; employees have until March 15 to incur claims for any contributions made during the previous calendar year.

All requests for reimbursement must be submitted to Sentinel Benefits, the plan administrator, no later than June 30, 2018. This includes claims for expenses incurred during the grace period. The June 30, 2018 deadline means if mailed, claims must be postmarked by that date. If faxed or emailed, claims must be received prior to midnight.

Sentinel Benefits
Fax: 781-213-7301

Participants must budget expenses carefully because, under IRS rules, Brown cannot refund the amount that remains in a Brown Flex account at the end of the Health Flexible Spending Account grace period of March 15 unless you claim all expenses by June 30, 2018. If funds are not claimed by June 30, employees will lose the unspent funds.

To obtain more information, call Sentinel Benefits at 888-762-6088.

This summary is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal contract. In cases where disputes occur, the Plan Document will be the ruling and binding instrument.