Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are great ways to save tax-free money for medical expenses both in the current term, and for your retirement years. By making wise choices, you can maximize the benefit of these fantastic savings accounts. Let’s take a quick look at the basics and then explore some tips on how to make your HSA money grow.
What is an HSA?
According to HealthCare.gov, a Health Savings Account is a type of savings account that lets you set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses. By using untaxed dollars in an HSA to pay for deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and some other expenses, you may be able to lower your overall health care costs. HSA funds generally may not be used to pay premiums.
In order to contribute to an HSA, you must be enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). A HDHP is defined as a plan with a higher deductible than a traditional insurance plan. The monthly premium is usually lower, but you pay more health care costs yourself before the insurance company starts to pay its share (your deductible). A high deductible plan (HDHP) can be combined with a health savings account (HSA), allowing you to pay for certain medical expenses with money free from federal taxes.
HSA vs Traditional Insurance
As mentioned, you are able to open a Health Savings Account when you enroll in your employer’s High Deductible Health Plan. A HDHP is different from traditional insurance in that with traditional insurance, you and your employer both contribute to the cost of your health insurance each month—otherwise known as the premium. You then have a fixed cost—a “co-pay”—that you pay when you visit a doctor, pay for prescriptions, or have a health procedure. With a HDHP, the patient is incentivized to shop around for lower cost doctor visits and procedures since they are paying for those costs out of their pocket at the full amount from the beginning until the high deductible amount is met.
Now, when used in tandem, the two components of the HDHP and the HSA have the potential to save the insured party money on their health care expenses. Here’s how it works:
- Contribution Limits
Each year, the government puts a cap on the amount of money that an individual and a family can contribute to their HSA. For 2020, an individual can contribute up to $3550 and a family can add in $7100 to their account. In 2021, the amounts both increase: individuals will be $3600 and families will be able to deposit $7200.
- Triple Tax Benefits
When you contribute to your HSA, your money gets a triple tax benefit. There is a 0% tax on deposited money, your money grows tax-free while in the account, and, when used for qualified medical expenses, you can withdraw the money tax-free.
The money that you deposit into your HSA is yours to keep--forever. If you change jobs, the money follows you. If you don’t use the money you’ve contributed by the end of the year, it rolls over to the next year with no penalty.
Tips to Maximize the Benefits of Your HSA This Year
Don’t be complacent to let your tax-free hard-earned money simply sit in your HSA all year! You can maximize this money’s benefits by making some wise choices. Here’s some tips on how to do this:
- Do you get a bonus at the end of the year? You can use that bonus money to bulk up your HSA until April 15 of the following calendar year. Just make sure you don’t contribute more than the annual allowed amount or you will pay a 6% tax on the overage.
- There is a once-in-a-lifetime allowance for you to move money over from a traditional or Roth IRA to your HSA. This allows you to kickstart that HSA so that you can begin using that money for expenses right away. The annual contribution limit still applies to this scenario for the individual and family amount.
- Long term care insurance is expensive and you can use your HSA money to help pay for those insurance premiums. Again, check with your plan manager to make sure you are staying within the allowed range for using this money for those premiums.
- Finally, name your spouse as the beneficiary of your account. When you pass away, your spouse will have access to these funds with the same tax benefits as you did. In fact, your HSA money can even continue to grow tax-free after you pass.
Finding ways to save money is always a good idea. Finding ways to maximize the benefit of your already saved money is even better!