What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)?
Why? I’m young, healthy, and I haven’t been to the doctor more than a few times in the last few years (knock on wood). As such, a HDHP offers me lower premiums than a traditional health insurance plan.
That was a huge selling point, but the other big selling point of the HDHP was the access it permitted to the HSA it is paired with (which my employer contributes to).
HSA’s are a key component to HDHP’s, so it’d only be prudent to give more detail on what they are, how to use one, and what medical expenses are covered.
What is a HSA?
HSA’s, or health savings accounts, are tax exempt accounts that allow you to contribute tax deductible funds that you can later use to pay for qualified medical expenses. Many HSA’s come with a debit card that makes the payment and accounting easy.
Unlike FSA’s, you own the HSA and can take it with you when you leave an employer. And when you turn 65, you can use HSA funds on not just medical expenses, but anything, without penalty.
HSA’s are very similar to traditional IRA’s or 401K’s in many ways:
- you can contribute tax deductible contributions through your employer, much like a 401K.
- you can invest the funds in the account.
- there are annual maximums.
- your employer can contribute to the account.
- the entirety of the balance rolls over from one year to the next.
The main difference is that you can cover qualified medical expenses with the account. Many HSA’s come with a debit card for you to use to cover these expenses.
What expenses does an HSA cover?
HSA Qualified Medical Expenses
There are a lot of medical expenses that you can use your HSA funds to cover. Some of the most common include dentist and doctor visits and procedures, prescription drug costs or co-pays, laser eye surgery, eye exams, contacts, eyeglasses, chiropractor, and birth control.
If you have any medical conditions that require special equipment or treatment, these expenses are typically covered as well.
For a full list of what medical expenses are covered by a health savings account, check out IRS publication 502.
What Expenses are not Covered by an HSA?
Publication 502 also has a list of items not covered as well. But two of the biggest expenses you may be wondering about are insurance premiums and over-the-counter drugs.
Generally, you cannot use your HSA to cover insurance premiums. There are some exceptions:
- COBRA premiums
- insurance premiums while you are unemployed
A new over-the-counter FSA, HSA, and MSA change in 2011 under the Affordable Care Act dictated that you can no longer use HSA’s to pay for over-the-counter medicine. Ironic that it was part of the Affordable Care Act, no?
Despite these two downers, HSA’s still offer incredible benefits over traditional insurance plans when it comes to covering medical related expenses.
If it’s not in Publication 502′s covered list, you can probably assume it’s not.
HSA Contribution Maximum Limits
Much like IRA’s and 401K’s, HSA’s have annual contribution limit maximums that are adjusted every year with inflation.
It’s likely too late to start contributing to an HSA in 2011, but the 2012 HSA contribution limits are:
- $3,100 for an individual
- $6,250 for a family
There is also an HSA catch-up contribution for those over age 55 of an additional $1,000 per year.
One big difference in HSA contribution maximums vs. 401K’s is that any employer contributions must be subtracted from the maximum contribution, whereas employer 401K contributions are completely separate.
For example, if you have an individual plan and your employer contributes $1,000 to your HSA during 2012, the maximum amount you could contribute would be $2,100 ($3,100-$1,000) if you were under age 55.
Who is Eligible for an HSA?
In order to be eligible for an HSA:
- You must be covered under a HDHP, on the first day of the month.
- You have no other health insurance coverage (excluding vision, dental, disability, accident, long-term care).
- You are not enrolled in Medicare.
- You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
What Happens to your HSA when you Switch Plans? Can you do a HSA Rollover?
When you leave an employer or end your participation in an HDHP, the HSA belongs to you. HSAs can be rolled over from one HSA to another if you are trying to consolidate, much like IRA’s can. You cannot roll over an HSA into an IRA or 401K.
Contributions made to an HSA belong to the participant immediately, regardless of who contributed (you or employer).
If you move back to a traditional insurance plan and stop using an HDHP, you can still use your HSA funds to cover qualified medical expenses.
HSA Vs. FSA: What’s the Difference?
If you’ve had an FSA in the past or are considering one, you are probably wondering how FSA’s differ from HSA’s. There are a few key difference between HSA’s and FSA’s.
- You own an HSA, your employer owns the FSA.
- You can roll over HSA funds from one year to the next, you cannot do this with an FSA.
- You can invest funds in an HSA, you cannot with an FSA.
- Contributions maximums between the two differ.
More Health Savings Account Info?
Check with your employer, as details around what they will contribute, HDHP premiums, and other factors may vary.
Also, check out IRS publication 969 for more on HSA’s. Also, check out my previous HDHP post for tips on determining if an HDHP makes sense for you.
Do you have an HSA? How has it worked for you?