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Thursday, March 6, 2014
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Are you the proud owner of one of the last remaining federal MSAs in existence?  Take a close look at your account, because the sun may be setting on your eligibility to fund it.

Federally qualified Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) were the pilot program prior to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).  HSAs went into effect January 2004.  You cannot open a new MSA, but you may be grandfathered in if you had an MSA account prior to 12/31/2007.  Although similar in essence (both are tax-deferred accounts), there are some significant differences. 

One reason why your health plan may no longer qualify is because carriers may not offer plans that meet the MSA criteria.  Because HSAs are a more attractive option for most people, the policies written by carriers each year are generally geared to annual HSA qualifications, rather than annual MSA qualifications (as you can't establish a new one).  The HSA guidelines do not meet most of the MSA guidelines.  See some of the differences in the tables below.
 Medical Savings Accounts Chart
 
Health Savings Account Chart

MSA Eligibility Requirements:
  • Your insurance policy:
    • The deductible needs to be between $2,150 and $3,200 with the out-of-pocket not to exceed $4,300 for single coverage.
    • The deductible needs to be between $4,300 and $6,450 with the out-of-pocket not to exceed $7,850 for family coverage.
  • Your employment status:
    • You must be an employee or the spouse of an employee of a small employer that offers group coverage, or
    • You must be self employed or the spouse of a self-employed person.
  • You cannot have any other coverage that is not MSA-qualified.
     
  • You cannot be claimed as an exemption by anyone.
It is important to check your deductible at your policy renewal date to make sure you are still eligible to fund an MSA.  The Treasury Department determines the criteria annually.  Just because you are eligible this year does not mean you are automatically eligible next year.
 
If you find that you are not eligible to contribute to an MSA, you may still be able to have an HSA.  Certain criteria need to be met for this type of plan as well.  Contact our office and we can help determine your HSA eligibility.
 
It is not necessarily true that all good things must come to an end.  If you can't continue to fund your MSA, hopefully you'll be eligible to open an HSA instead.  And if you open that HSA with us, you'll be in great hands.  After all, our motto here at American Health Value is HSAs Done Right!

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Posted by HSA Admin at 3/6/2014 9:33:00 PM
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

American Health Value Mobile Website HomeWe’ve got a big announcement to make here at American Health Value, and hopefully it will help to make life a little easier for all the people that visit our website from various cell phones and tablets...

AHV.com has gone mobile!!!

We now have a full-fledged mobile version of our website up and running, and it should help to maximize the experience of all of our web visitors from iPhone/Android phones, tablets, iPods, etc.

When you visit AmericanHealthValue.com on your mobile device, you’ll find a new and simplified homepage with large, easy-to-navigate buttons to help get you where you need to go. We’ve also narrowed down the mobile version of our website to the bare necessities to help loading times, and to make it quick and intuitive for you to find whatever information you’re looking for. 

The current choices on the AHV.com mobile homepage are:
 
American Health Value Mobile Website Tabs
 
Simply touch whichever category you’re interested in learning more about, and you’ll be taken to a new mobile-friendly page with collapsible menus for categories relating to the topic at hand. Below is an example of our “Free Discount Plans” mobile page. 
 
American Health Value Mobile Website Free Discount Plans
 
Tap the program you want to learn more about, and it will expand and collapse the content without having to load anything!
 
American Health Value Mobile Website Hearing Discount
 
We know that most of the time when you visit a website on your phone, you’re just looking to contact that company quickly and easily. We kept that in mind with this design, and were sure to integrate large “push-to-call” and “push-to-email” buttons on our “Contact Us” page.
 
American Health Value Mobile Website Contact Us
 
Just tap “Contact Us”, and then tap either button to instantly call or email our office, right from your mobile device!
 
Of course, there are people who like to view the full versions of websites on their mobile devices, and we kept them in mind also. Just scroll all the way down the page and tap “View Full Site”. You can then have full access to the desktop version of our website with all its capabilities at your fingertips.
 
We hope you enjoy our new mobile website! Have any questions or suggestions? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.   We’re simply looking to help our mobile users get the best experience they can while they’re visiting our company’s website and learning about health savings accounts. We look forward to hearing your feedback!

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Posted by HSA Admin at 8/14/2013 5:19:00 PM
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course we all love our HSAs.  But there may come a time when you find yourself in a position without a qualified HSA health plan. There is no need to panic.  You may not realize this, but you have been preparing for this type of dilemma. 

You also might find yourself in a situation where you no longer work for the company that provided your insurance, no longer have a qualified health plan or have no health insurance at all.  If you can relate, keep reading…help is on its way.

Funding Options

You can still deposit to your health savings account even though you are no longer on the qualified health plan.  Deposits are pro-rated based on the number of months you had the qualified insurance.  If you have not deposited your pro-rated amount at the time your insurance coverage ends, you have until April 15 of the following year, or the date you file your taxes (which ever comes first) to make those deposits and maximize your tax benefits.
 
HSA Account Options
 
If you’re worried about the funds in your account, don’t be.  Your health savings account was opened in your name and is owned by you.  Your account remains with you even after your HSA-qualified insurance ends, if you get on non HSA-qualified insurance, or if you change jobs.
 
You can leave your account open and continue to use the funds (tax-free) as needed for HSA-qualified medical expenses.
 
If you keep your account open and enroll in a qualified health plan at a later date, you can resume making deposits into your HSA.
 
You can let the funds grow in your account until age 65.  At that time the HSA can also be used as a retirement fund.  You can either pull the money out for any use (non-qualified medical expenses) and you will pay income tax, but no penalty.  Or you can continue to use the funds tax-free for qualified medical expenses.
 

HSA Options
Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 The funds in your HSA can also be used to pay COBRA premiums.  If you elect COBRA, you can also continue to make deposits into your account up to the maximum amount allowed each year.
 
If you have incurred qualified expenses since the date your HSA was opened, you can reimburse yourself for those expenses without paying a penalty or taxes (provided the expenses were not already paid from your HSA or by your insurance carrier).  You can reimburse yourself for any family member’s expenses, even if that family member was not covered under the insurance.  However, they would need to either be claimed as a dependent, or be a joint filer on your taxes (spouse).
 
HSA funds can only be rolled into different HSAs.  The funds cannot be rolled into any other type of account (such as an IRA). 
 
If you chose to close your account, you will pay a 20% penalty and income tax on funds that were not used for qualified medical expenses.  These are payable at the time you file your income tax return.
 
So just because you happen to find yourself in a position where you have HSA funds but no longer have a qualified health plan to go with it, you can still enjoy the benefits of the HSA!  After all you saw the value in contributing and saving money in your HSA.  Don’t worry.  Be happy.

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Posted by HSA Admin at 8/8/2013 6:37:00 PM
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
HSA Funding
Image courtesy of Master Isolated Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Congratulations!  You have your HSA-qualified policy in place.  You have opened your health savings account and are ready to start funding it!

In a perfect world, you would sit down and write a check for the full amount you can fund for the year, based on your coverage.

2013 Single Coverage:  $3,250.00 ( + $1,000 catch up contribution if you are 55 or older) = $4,250.00

2013 Family Coverage:  $6,450.00 ( + $1,000 catch up contribution if you are 55 or older) = $7,540.00

As nice as that sounds, not everyone can fully fund their HSA.  But with our handy HSA Medical Expense Worksheet, you can fund what you think you will need based on last year's expenses.  With a little planning, you can be ahead of the game when it comes to paying for qualified medical expenses.

Medical Expense Worksheet

 
The beauty of a funded HSA is having money available when you need it.  If you anticipate a medical expense coming up, you can fund your account for the amount and use it immediately.  You get the tax break.  If you don’t have as many expenses as you thought you might, you can let the funds roll over and grow each year.
 
Funding your HSA – any way you look at it, it’s a win-win situation!

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Posted by HSA Admin at 7/31/2013 6:17:00 PM
Wednesday, July 24, 2013

American Health Value Staff Spotlight SeriesStaff Spotlight Series: Every now and then we  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’ve created a series of blog posts called our “Staff Spotlight Series”.

In this installment, Fran, our Director of Operations wanted to write a post about cancer and how it has directly impacted her life through the recent loss of her sister.  We hope you all enjoy what she has been so gracious to share as much as we did.



Is it just my imagination or are occurrences of cancer on the rise? Sometimes when something touches your life you become more sensitive to it, and that may well be the case for me in this instance.

I lost my sister to cancer in 2012. It’s amazing how many lives one person can touch. She was someone’s daughter, sister, aunt, mother, grandmother, and friend. She was an exceptional nurse and mentor. The impact her life (and death) had on each of us cannot be measured. No one can fill the roles she embraced in her 56 years of living. 

According to a February 2012 press release from the American Institute for Cancer Research:

“The number of new cancer cases that occur in the US each year is expected to surge as the population grows and ages; by the year 2030, that number will be over 50 percent higher than it is now.”

However, a March 2012 article by CBS News states

“….. the latest report that looked at three decades worth of U.S. cancer rates…….found the overall cancer death rate has dropped by 1.5 percent annually in adults and 1.7 percent in children.”

The statistics and reports don’t matter much to those who have lost someone to cancer. My sister is more than a statistic. The reports mentioned above really mean nothing to me in the overall scheme of things. Believe me, watching someone you love die will quickly bring clarity to your own life.

I recently asked my daughter what profound things her 18 years of living had taught her, she responded:

1.    Confidence is key
2.    Flawless means embracing your flaws
3.    Have a cat, love a cat, be a cat (okay, you’ve got to remember she’s 18)
 
When I asked her what her Aunt Elaine’s life and death had taught her, she said to embrace life and embrace death. 
 
Elaine definitely embraced every moment of her life! When it was her time to die, she embraced it with dignity and style, causing us to laugh and cry right along side her.
 
She often started a conversation with the phrase “here’s the deal”. So I’m going to say to you…..
 
Here’s the deal, the Cancer Facts & Figures 2013 published by the American Cancer Society states:
 
“The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about one-quarter to one-third of the new cancer cases expected to occur in the US in 2013 will be related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition, and thus could also be prevented”.
 
So, here’s the deal, it is very apparent there are things you can do now to reduce your cancer risk due to environmental factors. Recommendations for individual choices are outlined as follows in the Cancer Facts & Figures 2013:
 
1.    Achieve and maintain a healthy weight through life.
  • Be as lean as possible throughout life without being underweight.
  • Avoid excess weight gain at all ages. For those who are currently overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start.
  • Engage in regular physical activity and limit consumption of high-calorie foods and beverages as key strategies for maintaining a healthy weight.
 
2.    Adopt a physically active lifestyle.
  • Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week, or an equivalent combination, preferably spread throughout the week.
  • Children and adolescents should engage in at least 1 hour of moderate- or vigorous-intensity activity each day, with vigorous-intensity activity at least three days each week.
  • Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, and watching television and other forms of screen-based entertainment.
  • Doing any intentional physical activity above usual activities, even if currently inactive, can have many health benefits.
 
3.    Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods.
  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit consumption of processed meat and red meat.
  • Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined-grain products.
 
4.    If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption. People who drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. For certain cancers, the risk increases substantially with the intake of more than two drinks per day.
 
Could Elaine have benefited from some of the advice in Cancer Facts & Figures 2013? Perhaps. My family and I are not inclined to live with “what if’s”. It doesn’t change the reality of “what is”. I will tell you the reality of watching someone die of cancer is harsh, and the reality of loving them through the process is indescribable.
 
My sister Laura recently wrote some thoughts about Elaine and I would like to share a few of them with you.
 
Elaine was:
  • My breath of fresh air. 
  • The cold in the winter that takes your breath away. 
  • A quiet soul at times.
  • A waterfall of suspense and laughter.
She did everything with great gusto, relishing every moment. Shopping for shoes with her once was enough; she was a crazy shoe shopper!
 
Elaine, who was happy to spend hours alone just walking, or reading, or fishing, suddenly needed us by her side even when she was sleeping. The “Laura are you there?”, the countless falls, and the “What are you doing in there?”.   The wanting to help but not being able to.
 
It is just as crazy and scary and loving to bring someone into the world as it is to give them back to God…
 
There was one more thing Laura said that we can all practice now…..”I would have hugged her again and said I love you!” 
 
Here’s the deal, who are you going to do that to today?

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Posted by HSA Admin at 7/24/2013 10:59:00 PM
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
HSA Choices
Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wine, leather boots, jeans, flannel sheets, cast iron pans, decision making…  Can you guess what these items have in common?  If you said "they all get better with age", you are correct!

As we get older, we gain more knowledge through education and our own personal experiences.  Our ability to make better decisions about things life has in store for us increases.  For this post, we wanted to pass on some of our knowledge to educate you about two very relevant topics: your healthcare and your money.

What better way to do this than to talk about Medicare (as everyone will have to have it in one form or another), and relate it to health savings accounts, our area of expertise.  So without further ado, here’s a basic crash course on Medicare and HSAs.

The Basics of Medicare

Medicare and Your HSA
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Part A: Hospital coverage

It helps pay for inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, hospice care and other services.  Most people don't have to pay anything for Medicare Part A.  If you have had a job for at least 10 years with a company that offers Medicare-covered employment, then you don’t have to pay for Part A.  If you don't meet this requirement, you may have to pay a premium for Part A.  Part A is also paid for by a portion of Social Security tax.
 
Part B: Medical Coverage  
It helps pay for doctor’s fees, outpatient hospital visits, and other medical services and supplies that are not covered by Part A.  Part B is paid for by the monthly premiums of people enrolled, and by general funds from the U.S. Treasury.  Most people pay monthly premiums for Medicare Part B.
 
Part C: Medicare Advantage 
Medicare Advantage plans allow you to choose to receive all of your health care services through a provider organization.  These plans may help lower your costs of receiving medical services, or you may get extra benefits for an additional monthly fee.  You must have both Parts A and B to enroll in Part C.
 
Part D: Prescription Drug Coverage  
Medicare Part D is a prescription plan that reduces the cost of formulary drugs.  Part D is optional, and there is a premium paid for by those who are enrolled in this plan.  Unlike Part A in which you are automatically enrolled and must opt out if you do not want it, with Part D you have to opt in.  There may be a penalty for not enrolling in a prescription plan.
 
HSA Options When Delaying Medicare
 
Delay Medicare
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you have a job you love and choose to continue to work past the age of 65, you will delay your starting date to receive Social Security benefits.  Automatic enrollment in Medicare may not occur for you.  You will need to contact Medicare for instructions in enrolling.
 
Delaying enrollment in Medicare is a personal decision and requires time and research to see if you will benefit from such a delay.  Medicare enrollment affects your eligibility to continue to fund your HSA.  One requirement to fund an HSA is you cannot be covered by any other health plan that is not an HSA plan.  Medicare is not a qualified plan.  If you continue to work and stay on your employer-sponsored HSA plan and enroll in Medicare as well, you would not be able to fund your HSA for the months you are covered by Medicare.
 
If you do not enroll in any part of Medicare, including Part A, you are able to take advantage of continuing to fund your HSA. Nothing changes.  You can contribute up to the maximum allowed by the IRS increasing your nest egg.  You also still have the option of using the funds in your HSA for qualified medical expenses for yourself, spouse and any dependents or saving the money for use later. 
 
HSA Options When Enrolling in Medicare
HSA Choices
Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 
Once you enroll in Medicare, contributions to your HSA need to be prorated based on the month you enroll in Medicare.  If you enroll in August, then you can fund the amount for 7 months of having qualified coverage.  You do not have to contribute the allowed amount by the month you enroll in Medicare.  You have the same deadline as any HSA account holder.  The deadline to fund your HSA for 2013 is April 15, 2014 or the date your file your tax return, whichever comes first.
 
You can pay for Medicare premiums from your HSA when you turn 65.  This does not include supplemental premiums.  If your Medicare premiums are deducted from your social security allowance, you may be able to reimburse yourself from your HSA.
 
These premiums for your spouse can also be paid from your HSA as long as the account holder is 65 or older.  If your spouse is enrolled in Medicare, but you as the account holder are not 65 yet, your spouse’s premiums cannot be paid from your HSA. 
 
If you choose to close your account when you turn 65, the balance in your account becomes taxable income to you, but there are no penalties.  But, if you choose to keep your account opened and use the funds for HSA-qualified medical expenses, the monies remain tax-free…and this is a good thing!
 
Relax, You’ve Earned It
 
So now that you’ve got all the information you need, go put on your Tony Lamas and a favorite pair of Levi’s, cook some eggs and bacon in your cast iron pan and sit back and enjoy a glass of Ste. Chappelle Chardonnay.  When the moon comes out and the stars are shining, you can climb into your flannel sheets and have sweet dreams knowing that you have made the most educated and mature decision about your healthcare dollars.
Relax
Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

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Posted by HSA Admin at 7/17/2013 10:43:00 PM
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
HSA Funding Check Up
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Can you believe it’s already July? The 4th has come and gone and here we sit, a little over halfway through 2013!  It seems as though this year has flown by, so we thought we’d steady the ship here at our “halfway point” and shoot out a friendly reminder about funding your health savings account and all the benefits to doing so.

There are a few different scenarios and variables when it comes to funding your HSA, such as whether your policy is “single” or “family”.  Or whether you’re over 55 or not, which would allow you to make the additional $1,000 catch-up contributions.  We’ll do our best to cover the basics, but if you have a question or there’s something we didn’t cover, let us know in the comments or give us a call and we’d be glad to answer any questions you’ve got!
 
Year-To-Date HSA Snapshot
 
Let’s get started here and break down what your HSA contributions should look like at this “halfway point” if you were funding on an even, monthly basis to max out your annual contribution limit.  We’ll give you a breakdown of single vs. family coverages, in addition to the optional “catch-up” contribution you can make if you happen to be over age 55.
 
It’s important to keep in mind while you’re reading this, that regardless of what you’ve contributed thus far this year, there’s no reason to panic.  You can fund your HSA any way you would like, and at any time throughout the calendar year all the way up into the following year prior to filing your taxes or April 15th, whichever comes first.  You can fund it all in one lump sum, in chunks here and there, or steady even payments throughout the year.  It’s your money, your choice, and this is just a guideline and/or friendly reminder to take a look at what you’ve funded so far this year to stay on track.
 
Single Coverage Snapshot
 
Single Coverage HSA
Image courtesy of Boykung & Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The standard, generic version of the health savings account is one that is tied to a single coverage (no dependents) high-deductible health plan.  As with any health savings account, there are certain deductible limits that qualify your policy to be eligible to open an HSA in the first place.  For more information on HSA-qualified plans, visit our website on HSA Deductible Requirements.
 
So with that out of the way, for 2013, the annual maximum contribution for a single coverage HSA is $3,250.  If you’re planning on fully funding your HSA, you’re going to want to currently be sitting at a year-to-date of $1,625. 
 
How did we come to this figure?  We simply took the annual maximum allowed ($3,250) and divided by 12 to get your monthly contribution amount ($270.83).  We then multiplied that by 6 to show where all of us should be at this halfway point, if we were planning on funding on a steady monthly pace.
 
If you’re 55 or older, you would add an additional $1,000 to the front end of that equation to account for your optional catch-up contributions, which would look like this: Take $4,250 divided by 12 to get your monthly contribution amount ($354.16). Multiply that monthly amount by 6 to get your “halfway point” and you’d arrive at $2,124.96, which is your current year-to-date if you’re staying on track.
 
Family Coverage Snapshot
 
Family Coverage HSA
Image courtesy of Boykung & Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
An HSA that is tied to a “family coverage” HDHP (insurance policy includes dependents) allows you to contribute significantly more money every year than the standard “single coverage” variety.  For 2013 with “family coverage”, you can contribute an annual maximum of $6,450. 
 
With that in mind, let’s calculate what your year-to-date should reflect, halfway through 2013.  We would take the $6,450 and divide by 12 to get your monthly contribution amount ($537.50). From there, we simply multiply that by 6 to get your projected “halfway” figure, which would be $3,225.
 
If you happen to be 55 or older, you’re eligible for the $1,000 “catch up” contribution, which alters those totals.  Your annual maximum increases to $7,450, so here are the figures for that scenario: 
 
$7,450 divided by 12 is $620.83, which is the monthly amount you would want to contribute to your HSA to stay on track to maxing out throughout the year.  $620.83 multiplied by 6, will give us our halfway point that should be reflected in your current year-to-date contribution totals if you’re planning on staying on track.  That total is $3,724.98.
 
Benefits to Funding Your HSA
 
The reason we want to point out these “halfway” figures, is because we want to be sure everyone is taking full advantage of their health savings account and all the benefits that come along with funding it. 
 
One of the strongest benefits is the triple tax advantage you receive when you fund your HSA.  The money is tax-free when you deposit it, which effectively reduces your taxable income.  The money is spent on HSA-qualified medical expenses tax-free, allowing you to pay for both planned and unplanned medical expenses with tax-free money throughout the year.  And lastly, remember that an HSA is literally a savings account, which means it earns interest on the balance, tax-free. 
 
It’s also worth highlighting here, that the HSA is a very powerful tool for retirement planning.  The unused funds you contribute to your HSA roll over year after year, allowing you to build up a significant balance in the event of a major medical expense, but also as a sort of “Medical IRA”.  Once you turn 65, you can continue to use those funds to pay for normal HSA-qualified medical expenses, your Medicare and/or Long-Term Care premiums, or you can pull the funds out altogether as supplemental retirement income to add to your nest egg. 
 
Please remember however, that if you decide to pull your funds out for non HSA-qualified expenses after age 65, that money is considered taxable income.  If you pull your funds out for non HSA-qualified expenses prior to age 65, those funds will be considered taxable income and you will be hit with a 20% penalty from the IRS for doing so.
 
Here’s a great flyer from our website you can print off & use however you want to remind you of some of the benefits to funding your health savings account. Hand it out to employees, friends & family, your clients (if you’re an agent), etc.
 
 
Don’t Stress, Contact Us with Questions
 
We hope we’ve provided a nice friendly reminder about funding your HSA and the benefits to doing so.  As we said above, it’s important to remember there’s no need to panic if you’re planning on taking full advantage of the maximum contribution limits, but you’re nowhere near the year-to-date averages we highlighted in this post.  You can fund your HSA however you want (as long as it’s under the annual maximum allowed) and whenever you want, all the way through calendar year 2013 and into calendar year 2014 prior to filing your income tax returns, or April 15th, whichever comes first.
 
If you have any questions at all about HSA funding, HSA rules and regulations, the benefits to funding your account, or even if you’d just like to sit and chat…please don’t hesitate to contact our office!  We look forward to hearing from you and walking you through whatever questions you may have, from the simple, short and sweet to the most complicated and technical scenarios.  HSAs are what we do, and we would love the opportunity to help you get the most out of your health savings account any way we can.

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Posted by HSA Admin at 7/10/2013 11:05:00 PM
Thursday, June 20, 2013
HSA Massage Rules
Image courtesy of Marcus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When looking at HSA dollars and how to spend them, it’s important to consider how one expense can be qualified and another similar expense is not.  A good example of the grey area in the otherwise "black vs. white", "yes vs. no", "qualified vs. non-qualified expense" HSA world we live in, would be “massage”.

Massage therapy appears nowhere in the long list of eligible HSA expenses that the IRS provides.  But in certain, clearly defined circumstances it can become an eligible expense from your health savings account.  Consider the following scenario:

Sally was involved in a fender bender.  After the accident she went to her chiropractor, got an adjustment and got back to daily life.  She worked through the first few days after the wreck just fine, but after 4 days the real pain set in.  She went to her general practitioner to be examined. 

He could see that nothing was broken, but the impact of the accident had left her with a twisted muscle in her lower back.  The pain was exacerbated by Sally’s desk job.  Dr. Smith wrote Sally a prescription for two therapeutic massages, knowing they would aid her recovery. 

HSA Prescription Requirements
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Therapeutic massage/body work is similar to relaxation massage, but it is more concentrated on correcting things like strained muscles and repetitive use injuries.  Dr. Smith saw massage as a viable option for Sally, to both ease her pain and speed healing.  He knew that two visits would help get the back muscle to relax and get her back into the swing of things.  With the doctor’s prescription, Sally was able to use her HSA dollars.  She also made sure that she had a very good paper trail in the case of an audit by the IRS. 

If Sally had not gone to see Dr. Smith and instead went to a spa/massage center in her neighborhood, she could not use her HSA funds to pay for her treatment.  The doctor’s prescription is the key.  Unless a procedure is deemed medically necessary, you cannot use your HSA funds to pay for it. 

Dr. Smith made the call.  His prescription made Sally’s massage treatment a qualified HSA expense.  Sally put her prescription for two therapeutic massages into her HSA folder and matched the receipts.  She was careful not to misuse funds.  Perfect!

Navigating HSA Rules
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Massage is a great example of one of those vague and tricky areas that may or may not be an eligible HSA expense, based on a few very important factors.  The golden rule if you’re ever in doubt, is to get a prescription from your doctor for whatever medicine or procedure you’re questioning.

The moral of the story is that when you’re navigating the grey area of qualified HSA expenses, it’s always in your best interest to make sure you use your HSA funds correctly.  This isn’t always easy, so please keep in mind there are several resources to help you determine whether or not a certain expense will be deemed eligible for funds from your health savings account. 

First, you can check the official IRS position on the issue by consulting IRS Publication 502.  We know that’s a little tedious to read through, so you can easily visit our webpage on Eligible HSA Expenses and use our convenient dropdown features to help you quickly find what you’re looking for.  But if you want a quick and easy answer, you can always contact our office and we would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have on the matter. 

Let us know what you think in the comments below, and share this post with others who have health savings accounts to help them out!

Be smart and safe with your HSA and as always, we look forward to hearing from you!


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Posted by HSA Admin at 6/20/2013 7:06:00 PM
Monday, June 10, 2013

BMI OutdatedSometimes we like to change up the pace here on our company blog and write about some topics that are a little more focused on health and wellness.  For this week’s blog post, we’re going to tackle the infamous “Body Mass Index” scale, and explain what a useless and outdated formula this truly is on so many different levels.  The fact that some of today’s “experts” even recommend still using this formula to somehow calculate your level of health and fitness is truly appalling, and the quicker we can put an end to this misinformation the better.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is defined as “a measure for human body shape based on an individual's weight and height”, according to Wikipedia.  It was devised around 1830 (yes, almost 200 years ago) and as the definition states above, only uses HEIGHT and WEIGHT to calculate your health and fitness levels, nothing more.  That being the case, let’s take a look at some very important factors it fails to consider: gender, age, body fat percentage, muscle mass, bone density, body type, activity level, diet, family history…just to name a few.

BMI Formula

I suppose it would be one thing if this old formula was just a piece of history we looked back and laughed at, but unfortunately it isn’t.  In fact, it’s recommended by none other than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for gauging your health to this very day.  People seeking out the government’s help because they probably have no real education in health and fitness are being told that a BMI calculator is going to tell them what they need to know.  Here’s an excerpt from our government’s official website on health and fitness:

“Finding out your body mass index (BMI) is the best way to learn if you are at a healthy weight." 

"Use this Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to find out your BMI and what it means for you.”

So what’s the problem? 

Using BMI as the “standard” measure for gauging fitness presents a very large problem, because almost all of the individual results are completely inaccurate due to a total lack of information. The reasons for the inaccuracies typically vary by gender, and create different problems for different reasons based on those outcomes.
 
BMI Body Comparison
For men, the results aren’t accurate or realistic because they tend to say you’re more out of shape than you actually are.  Because it only takes height and weight into account, healthy and athletic men (due to their muscle mass) tend to register as “overweight” and/or “obese”.  Just for fun, let’s take a look at a couple examples of what the BMI considers to be “overweight” and/or “obese” men.
 

Lebron James

Height:  6' 8"

Weight:  250

BMI Rating:  27.9

Classification:  "Overweight"

 Lebron James
 

Ray Lewis

Height:  6' 1"

Weight:  240

BMI Rating:  31.1

Classification:  "Obese"

 Ray Lewis
 
I think we can agree that these people are well-accustomed to the inside of a gym, not to mention all the effort that goes into maintaining their rigorous diet and conditioning training.  Without question they are extremely fit and healthy individuals, which clearly illustrates the BMI has some major flaws in reporting men’s results at a bare minimum.
 
But what about women’s results? 
 
Women’s results tend to be skewed in the opposite direction, which is actually a whole lot scarier than the men’s scenario.  In an interesting twist, the BMI tends to tell women they are healthier than they really are.  In fact, a recent study revealed that 48% of women were misclassified as “normal” using the BMI, when in fact they were “overweight” and/or “obese” when formally tested by a physician. 48 percent!!
 
That is a frightening number, and clearly gives very inaccurate results to the people who need to be made most aware that they should make some healthier choices and start a diet and exercise program to better their health. Take a look at this excellent video clip below that illustrates exactly what we’re talking about in regards to the BMI and how it classifies women’s health:
 

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Because this test is strictly all about height and weight, the problems seem to stem from the old adage (not quite 1830 old…), “muscle weighs more than fat”.  Men tend to carry more muscle mass, which increases their weight on the scale, therefore increasing the likelihood of a miscategorization as “overweight” or “obese”.  Women on the other hand, tend to carry less.  In fact, the less muscle mass one carries, the worse off from a health and fitness standpoint they probably are.  So because women (and especially unhealthy women) tend to carry less, they tend to weigh less, increasing the likelihood of a miscategorization of an overweight or obese person of “normal” or “average”.
 
Muscle vs. Fat
The bottom line, is that the only real way to determine one’s health and fitness level (men or women) is to measure their body fat percentage, which the BMI simply doesn’t do.  As Dr. Eric Braverman stated in the video above, “BMI doesn’t tell you how much fat [or adiposity] you have.  That is the predictor of heart disease, cancer, stroke, gall bladder and fertility problems, depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, etc.”. 
 
The good news, is measuring your body fat percentage is relatively easy to do these days.  In addition to walking into any gym in your area and having yourself tested, you can easily get these measurements in the privacy of your own home.  Here’s a few easy ways to accomplish this:
  • Skin Fold Calipers w/ a Free Online Calculator: Skin fold calipers are inexpensive (about $3) and are very accurate in measuring your body fat percentage when done correctly.  You can use a free online calculator to do the math for you, in addition to showing you how and where to measure.
     
  • Biometric Impedance Analysis: This technology comes with many new bathroom scales, and can also be found in handheld devices.  It’s relatively inexpensive ($20 or so) to get your hands on, and obtains its results by sending a small electric charge through your body and back to the device.  Muscle has a much higher water content than fat, making it much more conductive to electricity.  The more resistance to the charge, the higher the body fat content.  The accuracy is spotty at times, and although it sounds new and great, it’s still not quite as reliable as the good old calipers.
     
  • Anthropometric Measurements: This is arguably the least accurate home method of the three, but is cheap and simple to administer.  Simply grab a cloth measuring tape and measure yourself in several gender-specific locations.  Throw those numbers into a free online calculator, and get a ballpark measurement of your body fat.  The problem with this method however, is that the body fat isn’t directly measured.  It’s an estimation at best.

With all of today’s research, technology and resources available to the general public via the internet, we really need to get away from using simple and outdated formulas like the BMI.  It “over-corrects” for men’s health and fitness levels, labeling healthy men as “overweight” and “obese”.  However, its most prevalent and fatal flaw is how it “under-corrects” for unhealthy women, giving false-negative results to overweight and obese women telling them they’re in the “normal” range.  These test results are skewed in all directions, and for far too many people.

We all know (or should know) that the number one predictor of your overall health and fitness has nothing to do with your height or your weight, and everything to do with your body fat percentage, so spread the word!  The BMI has GOT TO GO, and should immediately be replaced with educational resources leading to information and testing that is accurate and responsible for everyone regardless of age, gender, height or weight.

So let’s all ditch the BMI, grab some calipers, and get happy, healthy and fit for ourselves and for our families!

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Posted by HSA Admin at 6/10/2013 10:28:00 PM
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
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