Healthcare spending accounts are a great way to save money on medical expenses. There are three types, explained below. In two of them, you choose a set amount to deduct from your paycheck every month, pre-tax. The third is a fund that your employer puts money into on your behalf.
In all three, the money in these accounts is not taxed, which means that if you pay for expenses using these accounts, you save around 30%.You can use this money to pay for copays, deductibles, and other medical expenses. You can also use it for vision expenses, sunscreen, bandaids, pain relievers and more. Many online-retailers have special HSA and FSA ‘stores’.
Here are the three types, with some of their pluses and minuses:
- Health Savings Plan (HSA): A savings account that you own.
You decide how much to put into the plan every month, and that money goes into the savings account, tax-free. You can deduct these HSA contributions on your taxes. Employers can also contribute to your HSA. Rules for what you can spend it on can be complicated and they are only available if you have a high deductible health plan (HDHP). The money rolls over from year to year and if you leave, you keep the account.
- Flexible Spending Account (FSA): A savings plan owned by your employer.
An FSA is like an HSA: you decide how much to put into the account, the money goes in tax free, and your employer can also contribute to the FSA. But you cannot deduct this money from your taxes. On the plus side, the account can be used for many types of health insurance plans, not just a high deductible account that an HSA. If there’s unused money at the end of the year, you can: 1) Get 2.5 more months to spend the left over money, or 2) Carry over up to $615 to spend the following year.
- Health Reimbursement Account (HRA): An account funded by your employer, on your behalf.
With this one, money is not deducted from your paycheck. Your employer chooses which medical expenses the money can be used for and reimburses you with tax-free dollars for those expenses. Unused amounts can be rolled over to use the next year. You lose any money in the account if you leave the company.