Jason’s Financial Favorites: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

Copy of Blog template USE THIS (6)

7 MIN READ

Jason’s Financial Favorites: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), by Jason Speciner

Let me start with three simple words: I love HSAs.

Since a health savings account (HSA) is basically a savings account for your health care, that might sound like a bold statement. An HSA might not seem all that “lovable” right off the bat, but HSAs are also so much more than what’s in the name. Their real value lies in the fact that HSAs have upfront tax benefits similar to a deductible traditional IRA, but that’s not all. HSAs also offer tax-free withdrawal benefits similar to a Roth IRA. Plus, with an HSA, you have the ability to contribute regardless of income.

That means, by saving in an HSA, account holders get to skip out on paying income taxes (and possibly payroll taxes) on the cash they stash there. It comes down to more of your money going toward your needs — and less going to Uncle Sam.

To better understand the benefits inherent in HSAs, let’s take a little trip back in time.

A (VERY) BRIEF HSA HISTORY

Predecessor MSAs, or Medical Savings Accounts, were available in some states as early as 1996. MSAs are similar to tax-free savings accounts, created to avoid insurance overuse by shifting some of the cost burden to consumers.

Then, not that long ago — in 2003 to be exact — former President Bush signed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, creating HSAs. HSAs are much more widely used today, although MSAs are still available in some states.

HOW HSAS WORK

While HSAs may seem a bit confusing at the outset, they’re really rather simple to understand and use. Let me break down the basics.

To be eligible to open an HSA, you must have coverage through a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). What’s does “high-deductible” mean, exactly? To qualify as an HDHP in 2019, your health insurance policy must have a deductible of at least $1,350 if you have an individual policy. Family policy deductibles must be at least $2,700. Those policies must also have not an out-of-pocket maximum of more than $6,750 for an individual or $13,500 for a family. While these amounts might seem high, having an HDHP usually means paying lower monthly premiums.

If your health care plan meets the qualifications, you can also open an HSA. Sometimes you will find the HSA bundled with your health insurance or your employee benefits. But you can also open an account at another bank or credit union if you’d like. With an HSA-eligible health insurance plan, you can contribute a maximum of $3,500 to an HSA if your HDHP covers only yourself. If your HDHP covers you and at least one other dependent or your spouse, you can contribute up to $7,500. Plus, if you’re 55 or older, you can add an extra $1,000 “catch-up” contribution, allowing you to save more before retirement.

How do you contribute? Many employers allow their employees to make deposits directly into their HSAs through payroll. If you don’t have this option, you can contribute after-tax dollars and deduct any contributions from your gross income on your tax return.

WHAT HSAS DO

Now that you understand what you can do with an HSA, let’s explore what an HSA could do for you:

  • You may be able to add cash to your HSA tax-free. Growth in your account is also tax-free. And, when applied to qualified medical expenses, the funds you take out of an HSA are tax-free. That’s a triple tax advantage!
  • Using tax-advantaged HSA funds to pay for health care essentially means paying less overall.
  • Setting money aside regularly to build up your HSA is an easy way to build a good habit of saving.
  • You’ll have the funds available for some of life’s most potentially expensive emergencies.
  • You can spend funds from your HSA via a credit card. Eligible expenses include copays, prescriptions, deductibles, and more. This even includes eye doctor and dentist expenses.
  • If you later select a health insurance policy that isn’t HSA-eligible, you can’t continue to fund the account. However, you can keep your funds in the HSA to grow or pay for qualified medical expenses under your new policy.
  • Your employer can contribute to your HSA (which counts against your contribution limit — but hey … free money!).
  • If you don’t use the funds in your HSA before the end of the year, the funds roll over to the next year. There’s no “use-it-or-lose-it” risk.
  • You can do a one-time tax-and-penalty-free funding rollover from your IRA into your HSA.
  • If you don’t want to pay for qualified health care expenses from your HSA right away, you can employ “shoeboxing.” This means setting medical receipts aside, which you can use to claim tax-free withdrawals at a later time. This can even be years in the future, if you’d like.
  • Once you’re Medicare-eligible, you can no longer contribute to an HSA. However, you can then use funds in your HSA for any reason. The distributions, while no longer subject to tax penalty, would be taxed as ordinary income like a traditional IRA.

Knowing these benefits, it’s clear why HSAs are growing in popularity. Not only can an HSA be a savvy way to save for healthcare but it can also be a strong retirement-savings option. And with retirement and healthcare being two major life expenses, employing an HSA can also bolster your financial plan, protecting you from major out-of-pocket expenses.

IS AN HSA RIGHT FOR YOU?

As great as I think HSAs are, they’re not for everyone. If you’re considering an HSA, the first question you can ask yourself is, “Would a high-deductible health care plan be the right insurance option for my needs?” Then, consider some of the potential downsides to HSAs:

  • If you withdraw money from your HSA for a non-qualified expense, the penalty is a stiff 20%.
  • You must be able to substantiate qualified medical expenses to prove that you used your HSA withdrawals properly.
  • Some HSAs charge account fees or transaction fees, which can eat away at your savings.
  • If you aren’t already contributing enough to receive the full employer match in your 401(k) or similar retirement account, funding an HSA might not be the best place to put your funds.

With the right balance of insurance coverage and savings goals, an HSA could be an effective tool in your financial tool chest. It’s worth it to consider the options. And don’t skip over HSA-eligible high-deductible health insurance simply because of the high deductible part.

You may even find that you’ll fall in love with an HSA, too.

Increased HSA Limits for 2020

Are you planning for the year to come? HSA contribution limits are going up for next year by $50 and $100 for those with individual and family health care plans, respectively, with the same $1,000 catch-up for those 55-plus. That means, if you have an HSA-eligible health care plan, you could stash $3,550 as an individual or $7,100 for your family. Along with the increase in contribution limits, the rules surrounding HSA eligibility are also changing in 2020. Individual health insurance plans must have at least a $1,400 deductible, $2,800 for family plans. Also increasing are out-of-pocket limits, to $6,900 and $13,800 for individuals and families, respectively.

To be eligible to open an HSA, you must have coverage through a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). What’s does “high-deductible” mean, exactly? To qualify as an HDHP in 2019, your health insurance policy must have a deductible of at least $1,350 if you have an individual policy. Family policy deductibles must be at least $2,700. Those policies must also have not an out-of-pocket maximum of more than $6,750 for an individual or $13,500 for a family. While these amounts might seem high, having an HDHP usually means paying lower monthly premiums.

If your health care plan meets the qualifications, you can also open an HSA. Sometimes you will find the HSA bundled with your health insurance or your employee benefits. But you can also open an account at another bank or credit union if you’d like. With an HSA-eligible health insurance plan, you can contribute a maximum of $3,500 to an HSA if your HDHP covers only yourself. If your HDHP covers you and at least one other dependent or your spouse, you can contribute up to $7,500. Plus, if you’re 55 or older, you can add an extra $1,000 “catch-up” contribution, allowing you to save more before retirement.

How do you contribute? Many employers allow their employees to make deposits directly into their HSAs through payroll. If you don’t have this option, you can contribute after-tax dollars and deduct any contributions from your gross income on your tax return.

 

Why Fund an HSA?, by Michelle Smalenberger

So we talked about the overview of a Health Savings Account an HSA. But now let’s continue on that, or build on that.

Why would you want to fund it? What’s the advantages of funding it, versus paying out of pocket? Let’s look at those right now.

So to make the math real easy. Let’s just assume you make a round number. You make $100,000. If you put some money into the account, it’s deductible. It’s pre-tax. So maybe you can’t do the $6,900, but you put in $5,000.

So now that reduces what is taxable, on your tax return to $95,000. And that money is now in that account. It’s growing tax free.

Your using it hopefully for medical expenses in the future. So it’ll be completely tax free. Sure that’s great. I can deduct it, but why wouldn’t I just pay it out of pocket and then deduct the medical expenses? If you’re making $100,000, there are some limitations to that.

So on Schedule A of your tax return where you itemized deductions, there is a floor. Basically a mathematical formula that says, what you make times this percentage is where your deductions starts.

So $100,000 at 7.5 percent, that’s 2018 limits, means the floor–your deductions, start at $7,500. So if your medical expenses were $5,000, you haven’t even met that yet. Your expenses would have to exceed $7,500, before they even start being deductible. So you may not even be able to itemize. You’re taking a standard deduction anyways.

In future years– so this 2017 and 2018– in 2019 and years going forward, this jumps up to 10 percent. So now it’s not $7,500, it’s $10,000. So if you’re paying out of pocket and you’re hoping to deduct these on your return, you’re not even going to reach those limits before it’s deductible. So why not put it into an account and get the deduction. Because there’s no limits on income or any thresholds. Let it grow tax free. And then save it for future years, where you know you’ll benefit from taking it out tax free for medical expenses.

 

Watch the Video on Financial Design Studio, Inc.

11000cfc-3ef4-4e97-ba46-3ad37604a021-attach_headshot-JasonSpecinerAbout the Authors
Jason Speciner is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, an Enrolled Agent, and the founder of fee-only firm Financial Planning Fort Collins. He is also a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), Financial Planning Association® (FPA®), and XY Planning Network. Since 2004, he has served clients of all ages and backgrounds with unique experience working with members of generations X and Y.

 

 

 

 

721f8e18-3397-4b84-9dec-82bce944e908-attach_headshot-Michelle-SmalenbergerMichelle Smalenberger has a passion for helping others develop a path to financial success! Through different lenses on your financial picture, she wants to help create solutions with you that are thoughtful of today and the future. Those who are a great fit for her services are families working hard to provide for and support each other so they can be financially successful. Individuals who want to ensure they are making the right decisions to secure a strong financial foundation to build upon for the rest of their life are also a great fit.

 

 

 

Did you know XYPN advisors provide virtual services? They can work with clients in any state! View our Find an Advisor portal.

Good Financial Reads: Why You Need a Financial Planner Good Financial Reads: Why You Need a Financial Planner
You Don't Need Life Insurance Until You Have This You Don't Need Life Insurance Until You Have This
How Should Married Couples Split Finances Strategy Guide How Should Married Couples Split Finances Strategy Guide
5 Financial Planning Strategies for Millennials 5 Financial Planning Strategies for Millennials

Subscribe to Email Updates