Adequate, restful sleep is paramount to good health, and for infants and children, sleep is critical for proper development. Health savings account (HSA) administrators are taking notice, and many are covering sleep training as a qualified health expense.
While some infants and children are naturally great sleepers, many children have difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. Some children also start out as great sleepers only to regress later in life; in fact, up to 50% of children will experience a sleep problem. Improving sleep hygiene, such as limiting screen usage prior to bedtime, can help many children with sleep problems, but some infants and children simply need to be taught how to relax and fall asleep—the ultimate goal of sleep training.
“Improving sleep hygiene can help many children with sleep problems, but some children simply need to be taught how to relax and fall asleep”
Fortunately for parents, professional sleep training programs exist to help their child achieve the restful sleep they require for proper brain development and growth. Like other forms of pediatric care, such as lactation consultation and dental services, sleep training services are also qualified as an eligible health expense by many health savings account (HSA) administrators. This means that families can use HSA funds for sleep training services rather than paying out of pocket.
Many employers are shifting to high-deductible health insurance plans, making many employees eligible for HSA accounts. These accounts are tax-advantaged, meaning they allow families to cover eligible medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. Similarly, many employees already pay for health insurance premiums or contribute to a 401(k) with pre-tax dollars that haven’t been subjected to federal income taxes. Funds contributed to an HSA can additionally be invested in mutual funds and never expire, unlike flexible spending accounts (FSAs).
“Families can use HSA funds for sleep training services rather than paying out of pocket.”
Paying for sleep training services using HSA dollars can significantly decrease the cost of services in two ways: 1) many employers contribute funds directly to HSAs and 2) money contributed to an HSA decreases your federal income tax. Depending on the amount of money an employer contributes to family HSA accounts each year, many families may be able to cover a portion of professional sleep training programs entirely with employer-contributed funds. For reference, the average employee received about $1,396 in family, employer-contributed HSA funds in 2017.
Using HSA funds for sleep training is easy; families can simply use their HSA debit card to pay for program fees directly. Employees that are eligible for an HSA but don’t have one can easily open an account through an HSA administrator. Administrators may be available directly through employers or employees can choose their own.
“Using HSA funds for sleep training is easy; families can simply use their HSA debit card to pay for program fees directly.”
Every HSA administrator is different, so it is important for each family to verify both sleep training eligibility and requirements for coverage. Some administrators may require pre-approval for services, and others require a letter of medical necessity, which can easily be acquired from a child’s pediatrician’s office. The eligibility category for sleep training services can also vary, so be sure to contact the HSA administrator if sleep training isn’t listed as an explicit category in the account’s eligible products or services.
Sleep problems in infants and children are difficult not only for the child, but for the entire family. Fortunately, many HSA administrators have recognized the importance of sleep in child wellness and development, and have opened up these health-care funds for professional sleep training programs—just like dental, lactation and other forms of pediatric care. These HSA funds decrease the cost of important sleep training programs that will benefit not only the child’s sleep, but their development for years to come.