Health Savings Account: Is It Right for You?

by Lorraine Ash 2. March 2015

HSA

When you’re choosing a health plan, there are many factors that may affect your decision. If you want an option with flexibility, a high level of choice, and tax-advantaged savings, a high deductible health plan with a Health Savings Account (HSA) might be the right choice for you.

What Are HSAs?

HSAs are tax-advantaged savings accounts that accompany high deductible health plans (HDHPs).

HSAs were created in 2003 to provide individuals who have HDHPs with a tax-preferred method of saving money for medical expenses. There are certain advantages to putting money into these accounts, including investment earnings and favorable tax treatment. The rationale behind the HSA/HDHP combination is that people will have a clearer idea of their medical costs and more control over their spending, enabling them to reduce their medical costs.

HSA money can be used tax-free when paying for qualified medical expenses, helping you pay your HDHP’s larger deductible. At the end of the year, you keep any unspent money in your HSA. This rolled over money can grow with tax-deferred investment earnings, and if it’s used to pay for qualified medical expenses, then the money will continue to be tax-free. Your HSA and the money in it belongs to you—not your employer or insurance company.

An HSA can be a tremendous asset as you save for and pay medical bills because it gives you tax advantages, more control over your own spending and the ability to save for future expenses.

Is an HSA Right for You?

HSAs are a growing trend in health care and offer many advantages, but whether it’s the right choice for you depends on several factors.

Comparing HSA/HDHPs to traditional health plans can be difficult, as each has pros and cons. For example, traditional health plans typically have higher monthly premiums, a smaller deductible and fixed co-pays. You pay fewer out-of-pocket costs due to the lower deductible, but you will pay more each month in premiums.

HDHPs with HSAs generally have lower monthly premiums and a higher deductible. You may pay more out-of-pocket medical expenses, but you can use your HSA to cover those costs, and you pay less each month for your premium.

The decision is different for each individual. If you are generally healthy and/or have a reasonable idea of your annual health care expenses, then you could save a lot of money from the lower premiums and valuable tax-advantaged account with an HSA/HDHP plan. For example, even someone with a chronic condition could take advantage of an HSA/HDHP plan if he or she has a good idea of his/her annual expenses and then budgets enough money to cover cost of care.

However, if you are older, more prone to illness or unexpected medical conditions, or prefer certainty in medical costs over the possible risk of unexpected out-of-pocket expenses, you may want to stick with a traditional plan. You’ll pay more in monthly premiums, but you will have a lower deductible and fixed co-pay.

How Do HSAs Work?

To have an HSA and make contributions to the account, you must meet several basic qualifications. Here’s what you need to know to start saving with an HSA.

HSA Eligibility

In order to qualify for an HSA, you must be an adult who meets the following qualifications:

  • Have coverage under an HSA-qualified, high deductible health plan (HDHP).
  • Have no other health insurance plan (this exclusion does not apply to certain other types of insurance, such as dental, vision, disability or long-term care coverage).
  • Are not enrolled in Medicare.
  • Cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.

HSAs must be used with an HDHP. To qualify as an HDHP, a health plan must satisfy requirements for the minimum annual deductible and the maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

In 2014, the minimum annual deductible for a qualifying HDHP was $1,250 for an individual and $2,500 for a family. For 2015, the HDHP minimum deductible is $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family.

In addition, annual out-of-pocket expenses under the plan (including deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance) cannot exceed $6,350 in 2014 and $6,450 in 2015 for single coverage, and $12,700 in 2014 and $12,900 in 2015 for family coverage.

Who Can Contribute?

Contributions to your HSA can be made by anyone, including you, your employer or a family member; the combined contributions of you and your employer (and anyone else making contributions to your HSA) cannot exceed the HSA maximum contribution limit.

Contributions to the account must stop once you are enrolled in Medicare. However, you can still use your HSA funds to pay for medical expenses tax-free.

Using Your HSA

An HSA is managed by the account holder, giving you the choice of when to use your HSA dollars. You can begin using your HSA money as soon as your account is activated and contributions have been made. You can use your HSA account for any purpose, including paying expenses that are not qualified medical expenses. However, you only get the tax benefits of an HSA when you use the account for qualified medical expenses. If you use it for another purpose, you will be required to pay income tax on the withdrawal, and you may also be required to pay another 20 percent tax unless you make the withdrawal after you reach age 65, become disabled or after your death.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

The Finances of Eating and Living Healthy

Spring Clean Your Finances in 6 Days - Part 2

How Your Credit Score Affects Your Health

The Lesson I Learned from "The Associate" Week 2

by Robert Kunisch 26. February 2015

The Associate Presentations

Do you want to win in business? Then listen to what the client wants and deliver a clear and concise proposal to meet their needs. It’s a simple concept, but it’s often forgotten. Too frequently we want to tell the client what their needs are and how we are going to resolve them our way. This week, the Towson University Associate program reminded me to look at how 1st Mariner is responding to our customer and prospect needs.

In week two of the competition, team Synergy and team Eminence locked horns in an epic battle to increase the brand awareness of Baltimore-based B’more Organic. B’more Organic has a great product with enormous benefits for the consumer. Their challenges are typical of a young growing company.

The rules of the game state that the presenting company, B’more Organic, reveals the issue that the teams must resolve. B’more Organic selects the winner. We (1st Mariner) have to fire a person on the losing team.

Here comes the lesson learned. The 1st Mariner judges believed that team Eminence had the better presentation. B’more Organic, the client, thought otherwise and selected team Synergy as the winner. B’more Organic explained that team Synergy met their needs better than the other team. We fell into the trap of liking a presentation despite what the client wanted.

The winners from the night were B’more Organic and team Synergy, but also 1st Mariner Bank for being reminded of a valuable lesson: ideas may be great, but if they fall short of client expectations then you won’t walk away as the winner.

Next up is Merritt Athletic Clubs, a well-known and respected Maryland company. Their case is materially different than that of B’more Organic. I hope team Synergy and team Eminence take note.

Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta (FHLB)

by Charlie Maykrantz 25. February 2015

New Home

Are you a first-time buyer who is looking for assistance to help with down payment and closing costs? Do you know 1st Mariner Bank can offer you a program that can help provide funds to assist with your transaction? It’s called the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta (FHLB) Affordable Housing Program. This program is offered in the following geographic areas; Alabama, Georgia, District of Columbia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. If you are military or a veteran this program is available throughout the entire 50 state area. The programs below are subject to 80% of HUD median income adjusted for household size.

There are different types of products under the umbrella of FHLB Atlanta. The following are offered by 1st Mariner:

1) First-Time Homebuyer

This program allows a loan of up to $5,000 for the purchase of an owner-occupied property with a match ratio of 4 to 1. This means, in order to receive the entire amount of $5,000, a borrower must contribute $1,250 of their own funds, and the home must be a primary residence. The initial income determination is to be made by the originating lender.

2) The Community Partners

This is an assistance program for use by firefighters, educators, law enforcement officers, or health care workers that will provide $7,500 in assistance under the same ratio parameter of 4 to 1 (to get the full amount, the buyer’s minimum cash required is $1,875).

3) Foreclosure Recovery

A loan up to $15,000 for use of down payment and closing costs for purchase of an existing unit from an FHLB Atlanta members Real Estate Owned (REO) portfolio.

4) Veterans Purchase Product

This is a $7,500 loan for closing costs and down payment for purchase. There is no required borrower contribution for this product. This is for homebuyers who are currently serving or have served in any branch of the U.S. military or their unremarried surviving spouse.

5) Returning Veterans Purchase Product

A loan up to $10,000 to be used for down payment and closing costs for purchase. There is no required borrower contribution for this product. This is for homebuyers who are currently serving or have served in an overseas military intervention for any branch of the U.S. military or their unremarried surviving spouse.

These programs are offered by 1st Mariner Bank through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta and are not guaranteed, as availability is subject to guidelines as required by FHLB Atlanta. For more information please contact Charlie Maykrantz at cmaykrantz@1stmarinerbank.com or 410-735-2068.

The above programs are subject to change at any time and this does not constitute a guarantee on the part of 1st Mariner Bank as an obligation to offer these programs without the approval of the program administrator. All applicants must be qualified to purchase and participate in these programs per underwriting guidelines of both 1st Mariner and the program administrator.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

Harford County Neighborhood Conservation Initiative

Howard County Settlement Down Payment Loan Program

Baltimore County Settlement Expense Loan Program (SELP)



© 2008- 1st Mariner Bank