Should I enroll in a health savings account?
A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged account that you can establish and contribute to if you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Because you shoulder a greater portion of your health-care costs, you'll usually pay a much lower premium for an HDHP than you would pay for traditional health insurance. This allows you to contribute the premium dollars you're saving to your HSA. Then, when you need medical care, you can withdraw HSA funds to cover your expenses, or opt to pay your costs out-of-pocket if you want to save your account funds. An HSA can be a powerful savings tool, especially if your health expenses are relatively low, since you may be able to build up a significant balance in your HSA over time. Before you enroll in an HSA, ask yourself the following questions:
What will your annual out-of-pocket costs be under the HDHP you're considering? Estimate these based on your current health expenses. The lower your costs, the easier it may be to accumulate HSA funds.
How much can you afford to contribute to your HSA every year? Contributing as much as you can on a regular basis is key to building a cushion against future expenses. For 2018, you can contribute up to $3,450 for individual coverage and $6,900 for family coverage.
Will your employer contribute to your HSA? Employer contributions can help offset the increased financial risk that you're assuming by enrolling in an HDHP rather than traditional employer-sponsored health insurance.
Are you willing to take on more responsibility for your own health care? For example, to achieve the maximum cost savings, you may need to research costs and negotiate fees with health providers when paying out-of-pocket.
How does the coverage provided by the HDHP compare with your current health plan? Don't sacrifice coverage to save money. Read all plan materials to make sure you understand benefits, exclusions, and all costs.
What tax savings might you expect? HSA funds can be withdrawn free of federal income tax and penalties provided the money is spent on qualified health-care expenses. Depending on the state, HSA contributions and earnings may or may not be subject to state taxes. Consult your tax adviser for more information.
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