The Fundamentals of a Health Savings Account

Written by benefitexpress | July 20, 2015

HSAs and High Deductible Health Plan

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a popular option of a Consumer-Driven Health Plan. Created by the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, an HSA is a tax-advantaged savings account that can be used for qualified health expenses.

HSAs are paired with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) - which means the main difference, financially, is that you have to pay a higher deductible in exchange for lower monthly premiums. The fact that you can use the premium savings to fund the HSA is one reason why the high deductible isn't a deterrent to choosing an HDHP. Another reason is that the tax-advantages come in three waves:

  • Savings can grow tax-deferred
  • Deposits are deductible off federal gross income
  • Qualified medical distributions are never taxed

The Rundown of How to Use Your HSA

      1. Enroll in a qualified High-Deductible Health Plan (must have deductible amounts that reflect the limits set by the IRS)
      2. Once you've enrolled in a qualified HDHP, the next step is to search for an HSA at a qualified financial institution, like a bank or credit union.
        • Fees to Consider - set-up, transaction, maintenance, account closing
        • Disqualifications - coverage from another (non-HSA-eligible) plan, enrollment in Medicare, or claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return
      3. Elect your pre-tax HSA contributions (which can be made via regular payroll deductions).
        • Find out if your employer will match contributions
        • Stay within the IRS-defined limits to remain tax-free
      4. Use the HSA to pay for qualified medical care. You will be paying all of the expense until the plan deductible is met.
        • Shop around for cheaper services and ask for generic prescriptions
        • Remember that In-network preventive care (annual physical, immunizations, etc) is typically covered and not included in your expenses
      5. Research investment options to further grow the funds in the account.

For a more in-depth look into HSA's, view our "The Best Introduction to Health Savings Accounts" guide.


Topics: Health & Wellness