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What is an HSA and how does it work?

Discover what an HSA is and how it can benefit you financially. Learn about tax benefits, eligible expenses, and how to set one up.

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What is an HSA?

HSA stands for Health Savings Account. An HSA is a personal savings account that allows employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for current and future healthcare expenses for themselves and their dependents. Employees are eligible to open an HSA if they are enrolled in an HSA-eligible high-deductible health plan and do not have any disqualifying coverage. HSAs never expire and funds roll over year after year. Employees can also invest HSA dollars. 

How does an HSA work?

An HSA is funded with pre-tax dollars, which means that the money you contribute to the account is deducted from your taxable income. The funds in an HSA can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses, including deductibles, copays, and coinsurance.

Employees enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP) are eligible to open an HSA. Often, an employer will also contribute to an employee’s HSA making these programs desirable. Employees retain ownership of their HSA funds. Balances carry over from year to year and the savings are portable. 

HSAs offer a federal triple-tax advantage.

  • Contributions are deducted pre-tax from an employee’s paycheck.
  • HSA funds can be invested and earnings are tax-free.
  • Withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are all tax-free.

Who is eligible for an HSA?

To be eligible for an HSA, you must have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). HSA contributions are limited by IRS regulations, which change from year to year. In 2023, employees can contribute up to $3,850 per individual and $7,750 per family. People 55 or older can also make an additional “catch-up” contribution of $1,000.

Eligible HSA expenses include:

  • Medical services: You can use your HSA to pay for medical services such as doctor visits, laboratory services, and surgeries.
  • Prescription medications: You can use your HSA to pay for prescription medications that are prescribed by a doctor.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications: In 2020, the CARES Act expanded the list of eligible HSA expenses to include certain OTC medications such as pain relievers, allergy medication, and digestive aids. However, it's important to note that not all OTC medications are eligible, so be sure to check with your HSA provider or consult IRS Publication 502 for a full list.
  • Medical equipment: You can use your HSA to pay for medical equipment such as crutches, wheelchairs, and home blood pressure monitors.
  • Dental and vision expenses: You can use your HSA to pay for dental and vision expenses such as exams, glasses, and contact lenses.
  • Mental health services: You can use your HSA to pay for mental health services such as therapy and counseling.
  • Long-term care services: You can use your HSA to pay for long-term care services such as nursing home care, home health care, and hospice care.

It's important to keep in mind that not all HSA plans are created equal, and some may have different rules and restrictions regarding eligible expenses. It's always a good idea to check with your HSA provider or consult IRS guidelines to ensure you're using your HSA funds correctly.

How to make the most of your HSA

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) can be a valuable tool for managing healthcare expenses. HSAs are tax-advantaged savings accounts that allow you to set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for eligible medical expenses. But how exactly do you use an HSA? Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Understand your HSA plan: Before you start using your HSA, it's important to understand your plan's rules and restrictions. Make sure you know what expenses are eligible for reimbursement, how to access your funds, and what fees may apply.
  • Contribute regularly: To get the most out of your HSA, it's important to contribute regularly. This can be done through payroll deductions, direct deposits, or personal contributions. Remember, the more you contribute, the more you'll have available to pay for eligible expenses.
  • Keep track of expenses: When you pay for an eligible medical expense using your HSA funds, be sure to keep a record of the transaction. This can include receipts, invoices, or explanation of benefits (EOB) statements. You may also want to keep a separate record of your HSA contributions and withdrawals for tax purposes.
  • Use your HSA debit card: Many HSA plans come with a debit card that can be used to pay for eligible expenses. Using your HSA debit card can be a convenient way to access your funds without having to submit a reimbursement request. Just be sure to only use your HSA funds for eligible expenses, as using them for non-eligible expenses could result in tax penalties.
  • Submit reimbursement requests: If you pay for an eligible medical expense out-of-pocket, you can submit a reimbursement request to your HSA provider. This can typically be done online or by mail. Be sure to include documentation of the expense, such as a receipt or EOB statement.
  • Plan ahead: If you know you'll have upcoming medical expenses, consider planning ahead by contributing more to your HSA or adjusting your contributions to ensure you have enough funds available when you need them.

By following these tips, you can make the most of your HSA and use it to manage your healthcare expenses more effectively. Remember, it's important to always check with your HSA provider or consult IRS guidelines to ensure you're using your HSA funds correctly.

Why choose an HSA?

Three words - triple tax advantage. An HSA offers several advantages over other types of savings accounts. For one, the funds in an HSA can be used tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses. In addition, the money in an HSA rolls over from year to year, so you can build up a substantial balance over time. Finally, you can invest the funds in your HSA in stocks, bonds, and other investments to help them grow even faster.

If you are looking for a way to save money on healthcare expenses, an HSA might be the solution for you. With an HSA, you can save money on taxes while building up a substantial balance to pay for qualified medical expenses. If you have an HDHP, consider opening an HSA and start taking advantage of the benefits it offers.

At Forma, we help provide Pre-tax Accounts, including HSAs, FSAs, and more. <span class="text-style-link text-color-blue" fs-mirrorclick-element="trigger" role="button">Contact us<span> for help.