The IRS and Department of Health and Human Services recently released new limits for contributions to HSAs and Health FSAs for 2017. Contributions by individuals to HSAs cannot exceed $3,400 in 2017, with the maximum family contribution remaining at $6,750, the same as 2016. Once again, a $1,000 catch-up contribution also applies.
Health FSA limits for 2017 have been increased by $50 from $2,550 per employee to $2,600. Health FSA transportation fringe benefits for parking, transit passes or vanpooling are remaining the same this year, with a limit of $255 for each.
The IRS began indexing affordability safe harbors to inflation last year. This year, minimum annual deductibles for High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) remain unchanged at $1,300 for individuals and $2,600 for families, with required out-of-pocket maximums remaining at a minimum of $6,550 for individuals and $13,100 for families.
While President Donald Trump has talked about several remedies for healthcare, one he mentions often is expanding the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) – consumer directed accounts that are typically paired with high deductible health plans (HDHPs). Like flexible spending accounts (FSAs), they offer a convenient way to pay for out-of-pocket costs like doctor visit co-pays and other qualified medical expenses.
No Use It or Lose It Rule
One big advantage HSAs offer is that account balances are not subject to the Use It or Lose It rule that applies to FSAs – surplus funds can roll over from year to year. The IRS maximum annual contribution in 2017 is $3,400 for individuals and $6,750 for those with family coverage under a HDHP. Individuals age 55 and older can contribute an extra $1,000. HSAs can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses, while surplus funds can grow and be used in the future. Employer contributions, where available, can go a long way in meeting future qualified medical expenses. According to the 2016 Devenir HSA Market Survey, nearly a third of all funds contributed to HSAs in 2015 came from employers, with the average employer contribution being approximately $850.
A Triple Tax Advantage
A HDHP with an HSA can make it easy to set aside pre-tax dollars through payroll deductions. Individuals can also fund an HSA with after-tax dollars, which can be taken as a tax deduction on their personal tax return. Finally, all contributions accumulate tax free and can be withdrawn tax free to pay for future qualified medical expenses, including in retirement. No federal tax is due on funds contributed to a Health Savings Account, and many states follow the federal tax law.
Looking ahead, we know that healthcare costs will continue to rise and the need to engage employees will grow. Regardless of actions taken by the new administration, we believe HSAs are a great way to help employees save for future medical expenses and better understand the importance of cost and quality in the process.
While we are awaiting an announcement from the IRS, the cap put on allowable employee contributions to Flexible Spending Accounts is expected to increase by $50. The cap index, which is based on the medical component of the consumer price index, did not increase last year. Inflation has been high enough to support an increase from the current level of $2,550 to $2,600 for 2017, however employers do not have to increase the limit. Some employers are increasing the limit prior to open enrollment, while others will likely hold off and make the adjustment for their 2018 plan year.
If your health plan is like most, finding ways to help members manage healthcare expenses is a top priority. Offering one or more tax advantaged healthcare spending account can help.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) – Employers and employees can contribute to an HSA tax free and funds can roll over from year to year. To qualify, a compatible health plan must have a minimum annual individual deductible of $1,300 or $2,600 for a family. All contributions count towards the annual maximum, which is $3,350 for individuals and $6,750 for a family. Catch-up contributions of $1,000 are allowed at age 55 or older.
Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) – Like an HSA, this account can be used before a deductible is met and no minimum plan deductible is required. Unlike HSAs, only the employer can contribute; the account is not portable and the employer can approve a rollover provision.
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) – Section 125 FSAs allow employees to defer part of their income to pay for medical expenses. Both the employer and employee can contribute, but the amount employees pledge to contribute cannot change during the year. If a required provision is in place, up to $500 can roll over to the next year.
The features of these accounts vary somewhat. HSAs offer great flexibility to the employee without an administrative burden for the employer. HRAs do not require a qualifying high deductible health plan, but only employers can contribute. FSAs allow the employee to contribute pre-tax dollars, but the use-it-or-lose-it requirement can be a disadvantage. For help in determining which option is most appropriate for your group, talk with your Third Party Administrator.
Legislation expanding health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) has been introduced in Congress and assigned to committee in the Senate. Just a few of the proposed changes contained in the bills include renaming “High Deductible Health Plans” to “HSA-Eligible Health Plans”; allowing Medicare recipients to contribute to their HSAs and use their funds to cover a hospital admission deductible; and allowing distributions to be used for over-the-counter medications as well as prescription drugs.
While these proposed changes and others included in H.R. 4469 and Senate Bill S. 2449 have received a good amount of support from legislators and industry trade groups such as the American Bankers Association (ABA) and the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), no action has yet been taken.