Save (Even More) Money With a Health Savings Account

Here are four ways to save money with a health savings account (HSA).

ByABC News
September 9, 2014, 3:44 AM
Here are four ways health savings accounts can save you money.
Here are four ways health savings accounts can save you money.
Morsa Images/Getty Images

— -- intro: I’m a huge fan of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) especially when compared to Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and yet most people have heard of the latter and not the former. To me, FSAs are examples of what you could call “Gotcha Government,” because if you don’t use up the money in them, eventually either your employer or the feds get it. Boo!

By contrast, HSAs roll over from year to year, they are portable if you change jobs, they typically earn interest and, as if that’s not enough of a bonanza, you can cash in your HSA for any use after age 65. Yay!

You can open an HSA if the deductible on your health policy is at least $1,250 for individuals or $2,500 for families. Many employers still offer FSAs but not HSAs. If yours is one of them, speak to HR about adding an HSA.

Here’s why. An article by Kimberly Lankford of Kiplinger's Personal Finance caught my eye. It lists several more ways an HSA can save you money. Here are the details that could save you big bucks:

quicklist:title: Employer Matchtext: Many employers contribute to HSAs, either giving you starter money just for signing up or by matching your own ongoing contributions.

quicklist:title: Retroactive Contributionstext: As long as you get your HSA by December 1, you can make the full contribution for the year that’s almost over. You just have to keep it for a full year in total.

quicklist:title: Pattern = Plantext: If you want to use your HSA to pay out-of-pocket health care costs as you go, then look for a plan that offers a low-fee debit card and requires only a low minimum balance. If you would rather keep your HSA growing, then look for an HSA with good choices of investments.

quicklist:title: Move $ From an IRA to HSAtext: Say you have a big health care bill and the only way for you to pay it is to tap your IRA. That will expose you to taxes and penalties. Instead, for one time only, you can roll money from your IRA into your HSA (up to the HSA annual limit) to pay those bills. This final strategy is the most complex and there’s more info here.

Opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

Elisabeth Leamy is a 20-year consumer advocate for programs including "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show." She is the author of “Save BIG” and “The Savvy Consumer.” Elisabeth is also a professional speaker, delivering talks nationwide on saving money, media relations and career success. Elisabeth receives her best story tips from readers, so please connect with her via Facebook, Twitter or her website to share your ideas.