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Thursday, May 30, 2013
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You have decided to jump on the consumer-driven healthcare bandwagon.  The choice was quite clear for you as you see the fantastic value in using tax-free dollars to pay for medical expenses for both yourself and your family.  It’s kind of a no-brainer.

What may not be so clear, is who to use as your HSA administrator.

You know you need to open an account, start making deposits and getting the maximum benefits out of your HSA .  You want to be able to trust that your account is being handled properly.  We can help make the choice crystal clear.

Consider the following:

How long has the company, bank, or credit union been handling HSAs? 

American Health Value has been taking care of health savings accounts and their owners since 1996.  We treat our members with respect and call many of them our friends.  Our custodian bank has assets in excess of $3 billion.  This means your money is safe.

How do I access my money?
 
If you are a member with us, your account is opened in your name and you can use a debit card or checks to make purchases.  Your funds are not mingled with other account holders and you have 100% percent control of your money at all times.  If you are looking at an administrator that also does FSAs and/or HRAs, your money may be pooled with other accounts.  Find out what provisions are made to ensure your money is available to you whenever you need it. 
 
With our online banking platform, you have 24/7 access that is simple and secure.  You can also make quick online transfers and deposits, and can take advantage of our free bill pay features!
 
Are my funds insured for my protection?
 
AHV members have the security of FDIC insurance up to the legal maximum.  Accounts are also covered by SIPC insurance.  As an added safety measure, American Health Value carries a separate professional liability policy.
 
What are others saying about the company and service?
 
Personal experience from others is the best indicator of what you can expect when dealing with an HSA Administrator.  Be sure to ask for testimonials!  We are endorsed by carriers, insurance agents, and account holders across the country, and prominently feature these testimonials on our website.
 
Can you talk with someone whenever you want?
 
Call the company you are considering and see if you can actually speak with a real person.  Is there an automated system or phone tree?  How many buttons do you have to push before you speak with someone?  Can they answer all your questions to your satisfaction?  Courteous, knowledgeable and friendly specialists are what you get when you call American Health Value.  Give us a call at 800-914-3248 and see what we mean!
American Health Value
You are someone who looks for value in everything you do, so don’t drop the ball now.  Get the best HSA Administrator out there, and give us a call at American Health Value.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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Posted by HSA Admin at 5/30/2013 11:28:00 PM
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I rarely pass by active duty military or a Veteran in uniform without stopping to say “thank you”.  I’ve even been known to anonymously pick up the tab for a group of active duty military who may be setting at a table close to me in a restaurant.  Our military is worthy of great respect.

Occasionally I come across something that puzzles me a bit in regards to Veterans, and my blog today is about one of those puzzling moments. 

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were signed into law in 2003. HSAs, when coupled with a high-deductible health insurance plan, allow consumers to put money aside in a tax-deferred account to pay for current and future medical expenses. 

Each year the government sets the limit for how much can be deposited into these accounts.  For 2013 you can deposit $3,250 (or $6,450 if you have dependents on your health insurance).  You can also deposit an additional $1,000 if you are 55+.

This is true for everyone but Veterans, and this is what puzzles me.

I admit I don’t understand the logic in the legislation, but the facts are clearly laid out.  If you use VA benefits for anything other than dental, vision, or preventive care, you are ineligible to deposit money into your HSA for three months.  If you use your benefits once, you reduce your allowed deposits into your HSA by one-fourth.  Use them twice and you could be cutting your allowed HSA deposits by half. Puzzling indeed!

There is some encouraging news, however.  A Veteran recently asked me if going to the VA for a service-related injury would disqualify him for depositing into his HSA.  It was a good question and well worth running by our contact at the Treasury Department. 

According to our contact, going to the VA for a service-related injury does not disqualify you from making deposits into your HSA.  Why?  Because the VA visit is for a specific “accident” related injury.  The HSA legislation does allow for accident coverage in addition to the qualified health insurance, and this treatment falls into that category.  That news certainly made my day!

It is also heartening to know there has been legislation introduced on more than one occasion that would disregard VA benefits entirely when considering HSA deposits.  No news on this yet.  It’s comforting to know we have national heroes who protect our freedoms and our form of government so these wheels of a free republic can turn.

If you’re a Veteran or active duty military – Thank You.  Next time your meal is paid for at a restaurant remember that it’s because someone appreciates your service.  It’s a small token of a grateful heart.


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Posted by HSA Admin at 5/22/2013 10:26:00 PM
Thursday, May 16, 2013

Concierge Medicine & Your HSAConcierge medicine is defined as “a relationship between a patient and a primary care physician in which the patient pays an annual fee or retainer”.  Basically, you pay a monthly and/or annual fee to have unprecedented access to a doctor for enhanced care and services as defined under their concierge agreement.

With concierge medicine you could receive 24/7 access to a doctor, same day appointments, longer appointment times and a greater degree of personalized attention.  The doctor may still bill your insurance (or you could be responsible for this), but you will not pay any additional funds for services covered at 100% under your agreement.

The lowest cost we found for this service via an internet search was $39/month, but average concierge fees can range anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000 per year.  It appears you can go with either the Volkswagen Bug or the Bentley!  It depends what you’re looking for in your concierge care and how much you’re willing to spend.

When it comes to covering the annual fee for this service, one of the first places people consider paying from is their HSA.  However, HSA funds can only be used for qualified expenses that have already happened.  They cannot be used in anticipation of future expenses.  For this reason, a concierge fee cannot be paid from an HSA.

But hold on…..there is still a silver lining!  You can reimburse yourself for HSA-qualified medical expenses received under your concierge membership during the year.  Confused?  No problem, it’s a little complicated.  Here’s a scenario to help make things a little more clear:

  • Let’s say you paid $2,500 for your concierge membership. 

  • During that year, you used your membership for $1,000 in medical services that were HSA-qualified and were not reimbursed by insurance. 

  • If your physician provides an invoice showing the actual cost of qualified medical expenses received under your concierge agreement, you can reimburse yourself for that $1,000 from your HSA.

  • You cannot, however, reimburse yourself from your HSA for concierge services that are in excess of your annual concierge fee. 
Qualified medical expenses that are not part of your concierge services can be reimbursed from the HSA if they have not been reimbursed by insurance.

Just a friendly reminder….documentation is everything!  If you reimburse yourself for concierge services received, be sure to keep detailed records in case of an IRS audit of your HSA.

What isn't complicated to understand, is that concierge medicine certainly seems to have a growing appeal.  2012 saw a 25% increase from the previous year in private physicians providing this service!

Concierge medicine is just one more option to consider when you sit down and budget your healthcare dollars.  Some will find it to be a perfect fit in their overall healthcare planning, while others may not see a benefit for their unique situation.  In consumer-driven healthcare, having options is healthy….and after all, isn’t “healthy” where we all want to be?

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Posted by HSA Admin at 5/16/2013 11:00:00 PM
Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Finding the HSA Sweet SpotWe all know that health savings accounts can help you save money on your healthcare costs by doing great things like lowering insurance premiums, reducing your taxable income, and helping you put aside money for healthcare both before and during retirement.  But we’re here today to discuss one of the lesser-known HSA strategies; a strategy we’re calling the “HSA Sweet Spot”.

The HSA Sweet Spot is the definition of healthcare Zen.  It is unique to health savings accounts, and when you find it, can completely change your perspective on how you both spend and save your healthcare dollars.
 
So, what is this HSA Sweet Spot?  Its "technical" definition, is when the balance in your health savings account grows to the point at which it completely covers your annual maximum out of pocket on your high deductible insurance plan.  That was a mouthful, and it contained a fair amount of “industry jargon”, so what does that mean to the average person? 
 
It basically means that you’ve got enough money in your HSA to fully cover any major medical event that may come up in the future, effectively freeing you of the monetary stress that goes along with having to deal with whatever healthcare-related issues are at hand.  In short, it simply means peace of mind.  Let’s take a look at a couple functional examples to help paint this picture clearly.
 
In order to have an HSA, you must first have an HSA-qualified high deductible insurance policy (HDHP).  For an individual in 2013, an HSA-qualified HDHP would have a minimum deductible of $1,250 and a maximum out of pocket of $6,250.

 

2013 DEDUCTIBLES & CONTRIBUTIONS

Insurance

HSA Contribution Limits *

Coverage
Minimum
Deductible
Maximum
Out-of-Pocket
Regular
Catch-Up

Individual

$1,250
$6,250
$3,250
$1,000

Family

$2,500
$12,500
$6,450
$1,000
*If insurance is effective after January 1 and you deposit the contribution limit, you must maintain your qualified insurance coverage through the end of the following calendar year to avoid possible taxes and penalties on part of your contribution.

 

This range of numbers relates to the amount of money you’re required to pay before your insurance kicks in.  So in the event of an emergency or catastrophic event, the minimum you’d be required to pay is $1,250 and the maximum you’d be on the hook for is $6,250.  But…how does this relate to the HSA Sweet Spot? 

Simple.  Let’s say you’ve got a $2,500 deductible, with a health savings account.  When you have a balance of $2,500 or more in your HSA, congratulations!  You’ve hit the HSA Sweet Spot.  If at this point something were to happen to you or your family (Heaven forbid), you’d be completely covered with zero liability.  You could simply write a check for your entire deductible straight from your HSA (in this case $2,500), and your insurance carrier would pick up the rest of the tab so you can focus on getting the healthcare treatment you need, without having to worry about how you’re going to pay for all of it.
 
Once you’ve gotten to the HSA Sweet Spot, a new world of opportunities opens up with both your health savings account and the rest of your finances.  Consider the following strategies and scenarios:
 
Shifting to Investments
 
HSA Investments
For starters, any additional money that goes in on top of your policy’s maximum out of pocket could simply be put into investments.  You’ll always be earning interest on the funds sitting in your HSA, but since you’ve got your maximum out of pocket covered for the year, you could choose to invest any additional funds to earn some extra money.  Our account holders have access to over 6,000 different stocks, bonds and mutual funds to choose from when investing their HSA dollars.
 
Tending to Other Financial Needs 
HSA Freedom
 
Is money a little tight these days?  We’re all aware that today’s economy isn’t the greatest.  But remember, you’ve already got your healthcare bills covered for the entire year (if you even need it), so you may want to think about spending some of the funds that would’ve gone into your HSA on something else.  Groceries, college funds, home improvements, or whatever comes up.  Although it’s a great strategy to sock away the annual maximum contribution ($3,250 for an individual in 2013) to reduce your tax liability, you may simply just need to use those funds elsewhere, and you have the freedom to do that with your potential healthcare costs totally covered.
 
"Deductible Walking" 101
 
HSA Deductible Walking
 Ok, we’ve saved the best for last.  Have you ever heard of “deductible walking”?  No?  We’re not surprised, we’re pretty sure we just coined the term.  This one’s more of a long-term strategy, but bear with us here and you could save some serious money over time.  Let’s say you’ve got a $2,500 deductible, as we’ve used as a previous example. With that $2,500 deductible, let’s say your monthly premiums on your HDHP are $250.  You’ve got more than $2,500 saved away in your HSA, so your potential healthcare costs are covered…  Here’s where it gets creative.
 
Next year when you’re looking to renew your insurance policy, think about bumping up your deductible and maximum out of pocket.  This will lower your monthly HDHP premiums (saving you money) and all you need to do is bump up the balance in your HSA to match the new maximum out of pocket.  You could even use the savings in premiums to do it!  Once you’ve done that, you’re back to your HSA Sweet Spot with your new HDHP, and you’re saving money every single month on the premiums.  Take a look at the chart below to see a visual example of what we mean:

 

"Deductible Walking" - 2013 vs. 2014

2013 Figures

2014 Figures

Deductible
$2,500
Deductible
$3,500
Monthly Premium
$250
Monthly Premium
$150
Savings
n/a
Savings
$100 (Deposit to HSA)

 

“Walk” up your deductible and “walk” down your premiums each year, and you’ll be building a bigger balance in your HSA while simultaneously saving money on premiums every time you renew your policy (all while being fully covered in the event of a large healthcare event).  You can increase your deductible all the way up to the indexed annual maximum (for an individual in 2013, that would be $6,250) to save the most money you possibly can on your premiums and subsequently use those savings to max out your HSA each year, effectively reducing your tax liability, and saving for retirement and future healthcare expenses.  It’s a bit of a long-term, advanced HSA strategy but it’s definitely a win-win!
 
Contact Us with Questions
 
That’s it for our summary of the HSA Sweet Spot, but as always, please reach out and contact us if you have any questions!  Some of these topics can get a little convoluted, and as much as we try to steer clear of industry jargon we understand sometimes all these acronyms can make your eyes glaze over.  Luckily HSAs are the only thing we focus on, so we eat, sleep and breathe them.  We’re always happy to answer any questions anyone may have.  Until next time, have a wonderful day!

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Posted by HSA Admin at 5/7/2013 4:33:00 PM
Friday, May 3, 2013

HSAs and MedicareThese days, turning 65 doesn’t mean a person automatically retires.  Every year we see more and more people opting to work beyond their 65th birthday for a number of reasons.  It’s important to be aware that enrollment in Medicare affects how much you can fund an HSA

Meet Bob.  When Bob turned 65 in May, he enrolled in Medicare.  He has had an HSA with his company for the last seven years.  He focused on saving and building his HSA, rather than using it, and has built up a nice balance of around $30,000.  Bob knows that at age 65, he can keep the funds in his account and use it for HSA-qualified medical expenses.  He can also cash the account out, pay taxes on it and take that dream vacation.  
 
But, Bob is a saver.  He saw building his Health Savings Account as an opportunity to have some extra financial security after he retired.  And now Bob feels pretty comfortable about his decision!
 
His employer called our office at the beginning of the year to see what Bob’s options were for his HSA if he enrolled in Medicare, or opted out.  Last year Bob was thinking about staying on full time for his employer and continuing to be on the group insurance plan, but the closer he got to retirement, the more he longed to take advantage of his “golden years” and start fishing more.  He opted to drop to part time hours (much his employer’s delight, as they were able to keep a great seasoned employee for their business) and enroll in Medicare. 
 
When Bob enrolled Medicare, he was no longer eligible to contribute to an HSA.  The IRS requires anyone funding an HSA to have a qualified high deductible health plan.  You can have no other insurance. Medicare is considered “other insurance”. 
 
Since Bob turned 65 in May, he was an eligible individual for four months of that year.  He was able to do a prorated funding into his HSA.  Bob had family coverage, so we used this simple formula (all figures for 2013):   
 
Determining Maximum Funding
 
Because Bob enrolled in Medicare and he’s only eligible for partial contributions, we need to break out the monthly averages based on both his insurance coverage type and his age (over 55 or not). 
 
First, we take the annual maximum for the family policy, and divide by 12 to get the monthly contribution average.
 
$6,450.00 divided by 12 = $537.50
 
Next, we’ll take that monthly amount and multiply it by 4, to include funding for January, February, March and April (his eligible months).
 
$537.50 x 4 = $2,150.00 (total eligible monthly contributions)
 
Since Bob was over 55, he was also eligible for four months of the catch up contribution of$1,000.00. We’ll divide that by 12 to get that monthly average.
 
$1,000.00 divided by 12 = $83.33 (per month)
 
$83.33 x 4 = $333.32 (total catch up contributions for the year)
 
$333.32 + $2,150.00 = $2,483.32 (total eligible HSA contributions for the year)
 
Therefore, Bob’s grand funding total for the year he turned 65 was $2,483.32
If Bob had decided to opt out of Medicare, he would have been eligible to continue to receive contributions into his HSA as he always has in the past.
 
HSAs are a great option for those nearing retirement.  It’s a secure, easy way to build a savings account that is specifically designed to cover the medical expenses that everyone has.  And when you do retire, it gives you extra a little extra security (or a lot, depending on what kind of saver you are) and one less worry to disrupt your relaxing retirement days!

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Posted by HSA Admin at 5/3/2013 6:54:00 PM
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Can An HSA Help Me?

Some time ago when HSAs first became law in December of 2003, opponents touted the plans as "only for the healthy and the wealthy". This couldn't be further from the truth. You don’t have to be wealthy to be smart with your health care dollars. If you have medical bills, be wise and pay for them with tax- free funds. 

Anyone who wants to make life a bit less stressful should consider looking into opening a health savings account for medical costs.
 
Take the following quiz to see if an HSA can help you:
Lowering Your Insurance Premiums
 
Lower Insurance PremiumsTypically, an insurance policy that works with an HSA has a higher deductible than a traditional plan, and also carries a lower premium. The monetary difference you save in purchasing the high deductible plan can be put away in your HSA and used to pay for future medical expenses. A real world example is one that looks like this:

Your current plan has a $1,000 deductible and you pay $300 a month. The HSA plan has a $2,500 deductible and you pay $225 a month. The savings in monthly premiums is $75. This amount can then be deposited into your HSA bank account. After 12 months, you would have saved $900 in premiums!!! 
 
That money now sits in your HSA earning tax-free interest, rolls over year after year, is ready to be spent on any necessary medical costs you may have, and can be pulled out as taxable income at age 65 for supplemental retirement income.
Back to Top
 
 
Reducing Your Taxable Income
 

Reduce Taxes with an HSAAny money you deposit into your health savings account reduces your taxable income. Two options to consider when funding your account are whether to fund it pre-tax, or post-tax. You can set up “pre-tax” contributions through your employer (through a section 125 or cafeteria plan) or you can claim any “post-tax” HSA contributions you made when you file your taxes.

Both of these methods effectively reduce your taxable income by the amount of your annual HSA contributions. This is a great way to reduce your tax liability, while simultaneously setting aside money to pay for upcoming healthcare expenses in the future!

Back to Top
 
 
Paying For Medical Expenses Tax-Free
 
Because HSAs are regulated by the IRS, there are a few guidelines that need to be followed. One example would be what you can spend your money on. We refer to these “sanctioned costs” as eligible HSA expenses. Once the money is deposited in your HSA, you can use it for healthcare costs relating to medical, dental, vision, pharmaceutical, alternative healthcare, etc. This can be for yourself, your spouse and any dependents regardless of the type of health coverage they have, or even if they don’t have any coverage at all. Again, all of the money that is spent on these eligible HSA expenses is spent tax-free.
 
See the flyer below for examples of what qualifies as an eligible HSA expense:

Eligible HSA Expenses

Back to Top
 
 

Saving Money for Retirement

Save for Retirement with an HSAHealth savings accounts are actually an excellent retirement vehicle. In fact, they’re sometimes referenced to as “Medical IRAs”! For example, if you have a particular year with few medical bills, you can still make deposits to your health savings account for all the tax benefits. In addition, the money you don’t use in any given year carries over (rolls over) to the next year, unlike a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). This allows you to build a strong balance in your HSA that not only earns tax-free interest while the funds aren’t being used, but can also be invested in stocks, bonds and mutual funds as well!

Another key difference from the FSA that makes the HSA a great retirement savings option is that the money in your HSA belongs to you, not your employer. If you change jobs, start or stop your insurance coverage, move across the country, etc. your HSA follows you, much like a 401(k)! 
 
Even when you turn 65, you can continue to use the money for eligible medical expenses tax-free. You can even pay Medicare or LTC premiums, or you can withdraw the funds from your HSA and count it as taxable income to take a trip, or spend it on anything you choose. It is your nest egg. You saved it, you earned it.
Back to Top
 
 
So, if you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, an HSA may really be beneficial to you and your healthcare situation! If you have any questions about any of the topics we covered here, please feel free to let us know in the comments below, or contact our officeHSAs are what we do, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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Posted by HSA Admin at 4/24/2013 9:31:00 PM
Thursday, April 18, 2013

HSAs and Obamacare

With the 2012 reelection of President Obama, the healthcare bill commonly referred to as “ObamaCare” became more of a reality with implementation at hand. Whether you are for or against ObamaCare, a common ground shared by all was the anticipation of the yet-to-be-released regulations by Health and Human Services and what impact that would have on industry and consumers alike. 

Within the HSA community, venturing whether the HSA-qualified health plan would pass the “formula” that included new mandates and regulations now under federal law was the subject of intense speculation. The ultimate question was: “Will health savings accounts survive?”
 
Late in 2012, Health and Human Services released to the public their actuarial value calculator that allowed one the ability to test health plans to see if it complied with ObamaCare’s new guidelines. As healthcare policy experts from across the country tested the HSA plans, they quickly discovered (much to their surprise) that HSAs do indeed qualify for the insurance exchanges in almost all variations. This included the self-insured, small group and individual markets. 
 
In addition, HSAs are predicted to be the lowest cost health plans for nearly everyone – individuals, small groups and large groups.   We found the article below to be one of the best-written pieces on explaining the HSA and how it fits into the exchange model, along with an explanation of the new “metal” insurance tiers.
 
 
 

 

In summary, the article states that HSA-qualified plans will be available in all four of the new “metal” tiers: Platinum, Gold, Silver & Bronze.
 
  • Platinum Plans: Pay 90% of covered benefits with an average individual paying the remaining 10% out of pocket. These plans are HSA-eligible.
 
  • Gold Plans: Pay 80% of covered benefits with an average individual paying the remaining 20% out of pocket. These plans are HSA-eligible.
 
  • Silver Plans: Pay 70% of covered benefits with an average individual paying the remaining 30% out of pocket. These plans are HSA-eligible.
 
  • Bronze Plans: Pay 60% of covered benefits with an average individual paying the remaining 40% out of pocket. These plans are HSA-eligible.
 
So if there’s one thing we can state with absolute certainty at this point, it’s that the HSA is not “in trouble” or “disappearing”. The time for worrying about their compatibility with the insurance plans within the exchange has passed, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and chalk up a victory for the survival of the HSA and the consumer-driven healthcare philosophy.
 
Naturally, as more information on Obamacare and the exchanges becomes available we will be sure to post it to our blogs and keep our readers and accountholders informed. 
 

What do you think, did we miss anything? Do you have something to add? Let us know in the comment section below, or as always, please feel free to visit our website or contact our office with any questions. We look forward to hearing from you!


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Posted by HSA Admin at 4/18/2013 6:57:00 PM
Monday, April 8, 2013

Are you eligible for a health savings account?

We were recently asked to clarify an individual’s eligibility to open a health savings account.   Having a high deductible health insurance plan (HDHP) does not necessarily mean the HSA is a slam-dunk.  There are still several other factors to consider before determining your eligibility to open an HSA, and we’ll cover them in this article.

Medicare#1. Enrollment in Medicare:

Enrollment in Medicare means you cannot fund an HSA.  That includes the part of Medicare you are automatically enrolled in at age 65.  If you’re on Medicare, don’t open an HSA.

If you already have a health savings account and are aging into Medicare, you don't need to close your HSA!  Even though you're ineligible to make contributions, you can still use the existing funds tax-free to pay for any HSA-qualified medical expenses, earn tax-free interest on the standing balance, and utilize any applicable investment opportunities.

 

Tricare#2. Enrollment in Tricare:

Enrollment in Tricare means you cannot fund an HSA.  If you’re on Tricare, don’t open an HSA.
 

On a side note, if your spouse is also on your insurance policy and is not enrolled in Medicare or Tricare, they may be eligible to open an HSA.  The nice part about this, is you would be able to use the funds your spouse puts in their HSA.  You can still benefit from the account; it just isn’t in your name.

Umbrella Insurance Coverage#3. Enrollment in Multiple Policies:

If you are covered under another health insurance policy you may not be able to open an HSA.  Exceptions to this scenario, would be another HSA-qualified insurance policy or one that is for a specific disease or illness – such as a cancer policy, or a policy that pays a fixed amount per day for a hospital stay.

Flex Spending Account#4. Having an Existing FSA:

Enrollment in a General Purpose Medical FSA (Cafeteria Plan) by you or your spouse can also affect your ability to fund an HSA.  A General Purpose Medical FSA covers any medical expense of you or your spouse without first applying a deductible. 
 
If your FSA covers just preventive care, dental and vision (called a Limited Purpose FSA) then you are fine to open an HSA.
 

If your FSA applies a deductible before payments are made (called a Post-Deductible FSA) then you may be able to open an HSA.  It will depend on the deductible for the FSA.  For 2013, that deductible would have to be at least $3,250 if it pays benefits on just you or $6,450 if it also pays benefits on your dependents.

#5. Usage of VA Benefits:

There is one more item worth mentioning here, and that is the usage of VA Benefits.  Enrollment in VA Benefits does not affect your ability to open and HSA, but how and when you use those benefits can affect the frequency of how you fund your HSA.
 
In order to receive deposits into your HSA, you cannot have used your VA Benefits at any time during the previous three months, except for the three areas listed below:
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Preventative Care 
 

Here’s a flyer with some examples of how your health savings account can work with your health savings account:

VA Benefits With Your HSA by American Health Value

 

That wraps up our list of the 5 most common scenarios that could potentially alter an individual's ability to open a health savings account. As you can see, the high deductible health insurance plan (HDHP) itself is the first thing you must have in place to open an HSA, but it is not the only factor taken into account when determining your overall HSA Eligibility.

As always, we are more than willing to help you navigate any of your questions about health savings accounts, whether you currently have yours with us or not.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments & we look forward to hearing from you!


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Posted by HSA Admin at 4/8/2013 9:17:00 PM
Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's Your HSA money

As you all know, we love health savings accounts!  We’re constantly keeping our ear to the ground to stay aware of the “latest and greatest” tools and trends available to help people get the most out of their HSA.  The good news, is the consumer-driven healthcare industry is exploding with innovative ideas, products and services to help solve some of the challenges people are facing with their health insurance policies and/or HSA/FSA/HRA plans. 

Sometimes these programs/services cost money, and sometimes they’re completely free…which is exactly what we wanted to focus on in this post!  Here’s a quick review of 3 of our favorite free tools and services to help you get everything you can out of your consumer-driven healthcare plan and specifically, your health savings account.

Simplee#1: Simplee:  Simplee is a free online service that does exactly what its name says it does…makes all your complicated healthcare and insurance information “simple”.  Just create your free account at their website, and tie in any relevant services you need to simplify…like your health insurance account and/or your health savings account information.  By doing this, you are essentially creating one “hub” where you can login and view all your information in one place.  Simplee takes it from there.

They display all the information in each of these accounts in very visual, easy-to-understand charts, and graphs, and lay out complicated insurance jargon in simple everyday terms.  Need to better understand your “Explanation of Benefits” (EOB)?  Or need to see what services are covered and what services aren’t?  Login to Simplee and check.  Need to track your medical bills for the year and see how close you are to your deductible?  Log in to Simplee and view one of the many charts or graphs for a quick update.  You can even pay those medical bills directly from within Simplee by tying in your credit card.

Screenshot from Simplee Dashboard

Simplee Dashboard

This is brilliant idea, and they do it very well.  It’s easy to understand why they’ve filled a huge void in this industry by empowering the consumer, which is exactly what consumer-driven healthcare and health savings accounts are all about.  They are an excellent service, and we highly recommend them.
 

Healthcare Blue Book#2: Healthcare Blue Book: One of the major cornerstones to consumer-driven healthcare and health savings accounts, is that the consumer is supposed to be in charge of their healthcare spending.  When you’re looking to go to the doctor for a procedure, you should be well aware of what is covered by your insurance (see Simplee above) and how much each procedure should cost.  This affords you a couple luxuries: comparison shopping, and peace of mind you’re not being overbilled.  But how can you possibly do any of that without knowing what these procedures actually cost?  This is where Healthcare Blue Book comes in.

Screenshot from Healthcare Blue Book

Healthcare Blue Book Homepage

Just visit their website, and put in whatever procedure you need to get at the doctor’s office.  They have quite an extensive list of procedures, and you can even specify the pricing down by your zip code if you want.  So, from the homepage, either type the procedure in the search box or narrow your search down using the category tabs at the top (Hospital, Physician, Dental, etc.).  Put in anything from flu vaccines to full coronary bypass surgeries, and get a detailed pricing list of that procedure’s fair market value.  At this point, you can even print off a “detailed pricing agreement” for both you and your physician to sign, solidifying the amount you’re both willing to agree on for that individual procedure. 

It’s important to remember that because you’re utilizing your health savings account, and paying upfront or in cash, the doctor’s office doesn’t need to worry about billing you.  This gives you some leverage and some flexibility in the price negotiations for your doctor’s office visit.  For some strange reason, even the most seasoned health savings account holders still sometimes don’t realize that healthcare costs are negotiable!  Be sure to remember this when you’re headed into your doctor’s office next time.  Armed with healthcare blue book, you’ll be sure you’re getting a fair market value, and you won’t be overbilled.

Free Healthcare Discount Card#3: Free Healthcare Discount Card: Ok, we may have a slight bias on this one, but it is something that can save you an exorbitant amount of money nonetheless.  This last item is our Free Healthcare Discount Card, and it is available for anyone to print directly from our website.  This card instantly saves you up to 70% on Pharmacy, Dental, Vision, Hearing & Medical Lab Testing.  Just visit our website, and click on the program you’re interested in saving money on.  From there, you’ll be able to locate local providers by zip code and contact them to see how much you can save on that procedure at their office.

Let’s take a prescription you need filled, as an example.  Visit our website, click on “Pharmacy” and then navigate to “Locate a local pharmacy”.  You can put in your zip code to find all the pharmacies that support the program in your area, and type in your actual drug name to get pricing on your prescription.  We’re willing to bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you’ll save on almost any prescription you’ve got, even against any pharmacy discount card provided to you by your insurance carrier.

Screenshot of Pharmacy Locator

Pharmacy Locator and Prescription Pricing Tool

I personally experienced this myself not too long ago, at a local Rite-Aid here in Boise, ID.  I had a seasonal allergy and needed to get a prescription filled.  I handed both my insurance carrier’s discount card and American Health Value’s discount card to the pharmacist and told her to run both to compare the discounts. 

The findings were as follows: with no insurance (neither card) I would have paid roughly $120.  With my insurance carrier’s card, I would have paid in the ball park of $70.  With American Health Value’s discount card, I paid $29.  This is because we have a direct relationship with these healthcare/pharmaceutical providers and we’re not skimming off the top, which results in substantial savings for anyone that carries this discount card.

Prescription Pricing Table

Look at it this way, the cash price was $120, and the insurance carrier’s price was $70, making you think you get some great discount for carrying your policy’s “pharmacy discount card”.  Which really makes you wonder where the difference between the $70 and the actual cost of the drug, which was $29, ends up doesn’t it?

Jump out to our website to learn more about the programs, to locate participating local providers, and to print your free healthcare discount card today!  You can even share it with friends and family, or pass it along to the less-fortunate, as there’s no insurance policy or HSA required to use it.

That sums up our 3 favorite tools for helping you get the most out of your health savings account.  We hope you found something new in this post you can utilize, and as always, we appreciate your feedback!  Is there a free service you’re aware of that we didn’t mention?  Have any thoughts on the ones we spoke about?  Let us know in the comments below!


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Posted by HSA Admin at 4/3/2013 9:32:00 PM
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

American Health Value Staff Spotlight SeriesStaff Spotlight Series: Every now and then we thought we’d spice up our typical posts on HSAs, health insurance & wellness to offer up a better opportunity for all of you out there to get to know all of us here at American Health Value on a more personal level. To that end, we’re creating a series of blog posts called our “Staff Spotlight Series”.

In this first installment, our Customer Service Manager Robin wanted to write a piece about how eating healthy food every once in a while isn’t only good for you, it can be both practical and economical as well. Check it out below!



 Save the Meat

During World War I, the US Food Administration (USFA) urged families to reduce consumption of key staples to help the war effort. Conserving food would support U.S. troops as well as feed populations in Europe where food production and distribution had been disrupted by war.  This time around, Meatless Mondays is brought back as a reminder that meat production can be expensive and sometimes hard on the environment, and unfortunately not always the healthiest choice.   Replace one meal a week with a vegetarian meal.  Save money and reduce your cholesterol!

This week my Vegetarian Times Magazine came in the mail.  It had an article about a week's worth of meals that you can put together, refrigerate or freeze, and be ready for dinner each night without a hassle.  I cook a lot, so I don’t find dinner to be a chore.  I was intrigued however, by the beautiful recipes I saw.   It motivated me to try my meatless week of dinners.

Zucchini Corn Cannelloni
Monday night I made Zucchini Corn Cannelloni.  It was hearty, gooey, and yummy.  No one in my house complained that it was missing meat!  Paired with a spinach salad, it did the job of filling empty bellies.

 

Broiled French Onion Soup
Tuesday night I made Broiled French Onion Soup with homemade whole wheat garlic scallion bread.  I worried that soup would not make a meal, so I added a side of kale salad with mandarins, pepitos (roasted pumpkin seeds) with a chili lime vinaigrette.
 

Veggie Burger

Wednesday we ate pinto bean, mushroom, walnut veggie burgers.  This recipe is a hybrid of many veggie burgers that I have been trying.  I love pinto beans, so they became the basis of the burger.  It is so easy to change up the ingredients in a Veggie Burger, that you can add most anything you want.   I used bread crumbs and a little grape seed oil to bind it together.  I figure, as long as it doesn’t fall apart when you are pan frying it, it’s all good!   I added an Israeli couscous salad on the side.  To the couscous, I added raisins, grape tomatoes, sugar peas, pepitos, and onion.  I finished with an apple cider/grape seed oil/ brown sugar vinaigrette.  Once again, no one complained because there was no meat!

Tofu NoodlesThursday night, I admit I was starting to feel a little bit daunted by the fact that I needed to come up with another vegetarian dish.  As I peered into the refrigerator, checking out my options, I saw that I had bought smoked tofu.   I took the tofu, (my first time trying it, I will definitely use it again!) and cut it into small cubes.  I had some rice noodles in my pantry.  I added sautéed veggies that were in the fridge, with the tofu and topped it all with a lime, brown sugar, ponzu (citrus soy sauce) dressing.
 

Veggie Chili
I rounded off the week on Friday by making
Veggie Chili.  How hard is it?  Just make chili and don’t add the hamburger or chicken.  Make sure you make some corn bread to keep everyone happy!

 

My week of meatless meals turned out to be easy and delicious, and economical!

For the record, I am not vegetarian or vegan.  I don’t endorse any style of eating, except that of using and eating quality, healthy food.  Life is too short to eat bad food!


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Posted by HSA Admin at 3/26/2013 4:50:00 PM
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