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Health Savings Accounts

As the owner of an independent health insurance agency and the founder of a website for comparing health insurance providers I often get asked, “What type of health insurance do YOU have?” Of course, no one health insurance company or health insurance plan is right for everyone because everyone has different needs, lives in a different area, etc… but I can certainly feel comfortable telling people that I personally have a Health Savings Account (HSA) and I absolutely love it!
Here are 7 reasons why I love my HSA:
#1 All Contributions to my HSA are Tax Deductible

Every single dollar that I contribute into my HSA http://www.easytoinsureme.com/united-health-one.html every year is deductible on the front of my personal 1040 tax return (up to certain annual limits imposed by the IRS – for 2010 the maximum deductible HSA contribution is $3,050 for singles and $6,150 for families with those age 55 or over getting an extra $1,000 allotted maximum contribution amount).  This HSA contribution deduction is great because it is an “above the line” deduction meaning that it is deducted before arriving at your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) number.  To make this deduction even better there are absolutely no income phaseouts for the HSA contribution deduction so you could be Bill Gates or Warren Buffet and still take the full HSA contribution deduction.  The more money you make the more attractive this deduction is to you.
#2 The Money in my HSA Grows Tax Free

All of the money in my Health Savings Account grows tax free as long as I use the money in the account for qualified medical expenses or wait until I am age 65 or older and use it for my retirement.  Yes, you heard me right “Tax Free” not just “Tax Deferred” as you may be accustomed to hearing about with a 401K or other similar tax deferred account.
#3 I Can Choose any Health Insurance Company I Want

Another reason I love my HSA is that the HSA itself is simply a savings account with some special paperwork so that it receives special treatment from the IRS.  The HSA itself is NOT health insurance but is simply the second component of what is commonly thought of as a HSA health insurance plan with the first component being a high deductible health insurance plan (according to the IRS a high deductible health insurance plan is any health plan with a deductible of at least $1,200 for singles and $2,400 for families – so still pretty low minimums).  What this means is that many different banks offer Health Savings Accounts and you can choose the bank that you prefer to set up your HSA and then buy your high deductible health insurance plan from any insurance company that you like.  You can even purchase a plan from United Healthcare one year and then shop around in year two and switch to a potentially cheaper plan with Humana and then in year three switch to Blue Cross Blue Shield, etc.  This ability to constantly comparison shop and not be tied to one particular insurance provider is a great benefit to an HSA (as your actual savings account component of the plan still stays with your original bank).
#4 I Pay Very Low Monthly Premiums

The higher the deductible is on your health insurance plan then the lower your monthly premium payments will be.  Since a high deductible health insurance plan is a requirement for opening a Health Savings Account then one of the nice things about the plans is that the monthly premiums are comparatively very low!  I would much rather save a large sum of money every month by paying less in premiums each month than paying extra for a very low deductible and co-pays.
#5 I Am Firmly In Control of My Health Care Dollars

The beautiful thing about an Health Savings Account as compared to a Flexible Spending Account is that while Flex Spending Accounts require you to use up the money in the account every year all of the money that you contribute to an HSA rolls over from year to year.  In fact, as mentioned above, even if you don’t end up using the money in your HSA for medical expenses (a good thing!) then when you reach age 65 you can withdraw the money tax free for your retirement.  Most HSA custodians will give you an option to place your HSA money into a savings account, investment account, etc. as the decision is up to you as to where you place your HSA account money.
#6 I Can Rest Easy

Admittedly some people simply sleep better at night knowing that they have a very low deductible and low co-pays for things like doctor’s visits and prescriptions and I understand that but I like to think of it like this -  After your first year of contributing the maximum to your HSA then unless you use up all of the money with a large unforeseen medical bill then you will have enough money in your HSA for years two and on that even if you have to meet your deductible then as long as your HSA health insurance plan covers all expenses 100% once the deductible is met then you effectively have zero out of pocket costs because you already have the money in your HSA account!  Sure, if you start an HSA tomorrow and you have only contributed a couple hundred dollars into the account so far and you get hit with a big medical bill then you will have to come out of pocket for your deductible amount but once you have maxed out your HSA contribution for a year or two then you are essentially home free with potentially no additional out of pocket costs even for large medical bills!
#7 HSA Setup is Very Easy

If you can open a savings account then you can open a Health Savings Account just as easily.  If you can apply for a regular health insurance plan then you can apply for a high deductible health insurance plan just as easily.  Almost every bank has HSA’s available and almost every health insurance company has high deductible health insurance plans available.  Setting up an HSA is so easy that I probably took twice as long to write this article as it would take you to apply for both a Health Savings Account at your bank and a high deductible health insurance plan at your health insurance company.

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