Businesses, be prepared to champion the advantages of an HSA
May 2, 2023
With concerns about inflation in the news for months now, most business owners are keeping a close eye on costs. Although it can be difficult to control costs related to mission-critical functions such as overhead and materials, you might find some budge room in employee benefits.
Many companies have lowered their benefits costs by offering a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) coupled with a Health Savings Account (HSA). Of course, some employees might not react positively to a health plan that starts with the phrase “high-deductible.” So, if you decide to offer an HSA, you’ll want to devise a strategy for championing the plan’s advantages. It’s important that your employees feel informed about the advantages offered by this program and equipped to make the best decision for themselves and their families.
An HSA is a tax-advantaged savings account funded with pretax dollars. Funds can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for a wide range of qualified medical expenses. As mentioned, to provide these benefits, an HSA must be coupled with an HDHP. For 2023, an HDHP is defined as a plan with a minimum deductible of $1,500 ($3,000 for family coverage) and maximum out-of-pocket expenses of $7,500 ($15,000 for family coverage).
In 2023, the annual contribution limit for HSAs is $3,850 for individuals with self-only coverage and $7,750 for individuals with family coverage. If you’re 55 or older, you can add another $1,000. Both the business and the participant can make contributions. However, the limit is a combined one, not per-payer. Thus, if your company contributed $4,000 to an employee’s family-coverage account, that participant could contribute only $3,750.
Another requirement for HSA contributions is that an account holder can’t be enrolled in Medicare or covered by any non-HDHP insurance (such as a spouse’s plan). Once someone enrolls in Medicare, the person becomes ineligible to contribute to an HSA — though the account holder can still withdraw funds from an existing HSA to pay for qualified expenses, which expand starting at age 65.
3 major advantages
There are three major advantages to an HSA to clearly communicate to employees:
- Lower premiums. Some employees might scowl at having a high deductible, but you may be able to turn that frown upside down by informing them that HDHP premiums — that is, the monthly cost to retain coverage — tend to be substantially lower than those of other plan types.
- Tax advantages times three. An HSA presents a “triple threat” to an account holder’s tax liability. First, contributions are made pretax, which lowers one’s taxable income. Second, funds in the account grow tax-free. And third, distributions are tax-free as long as the withdrawals are used for eligible expenses.
- Retirement and estate planning pluses. There’s no “use it or lose it” clause with an HSA; participants own their accounts. Thus, funds may be carried over year to year — continuing to grow tax-deferred indefinitely. Upon turning age 65, account holders can withdraw funds penalty-free for any purpose, though funds that aren’t used for qualified medical expenses are taxable.
An HSA can even be included in an account holder’s estate plan. However, the tax implications of inheriting an HSA differ significantly depending on the recipient, so it’s important to carefully consider beneficiary designation.
Explain the upsides
The HDHP+HSA pairing can be a win-win for your business and your employees. While participants are enjoying the advantages noted above, you’ll appreciate lower payroll costs, a federal tax deduction and reduced administrative burden. It’s critical, however, that employers invest the time and attention to employee education, prioritizing communication around these benefit changes and how they can be leveraged effectively so that employees are able to take full advantage of the benefit. Contact us for help evaluating the concept and assessing the costs of health care benefits.