During the pandemic, you’ve probably spent a lot of time worrying about your family’s health. There are certain things we can do to protect ourselves and boost our immune systems during this time. Aside from wearing masks and washing your hands, you can embrace a nutritious diet, get regular exercise, and stay hydrated (by drinking just a mere fraction of the 400 billion gallons of water that are used each day nationwide).
But no matter what precautions your family takes, there’s always a chance that someone will come down with an illness or make a trip to the emergency department. If and when that happens, you’ll want to get your loved ones the help they need — but you may also need to be concerned about the cost. Medical bills are a huge source of financial anxiety for many Americans. And although you can try to receive in-network treatment and ask about payment plans, you can’t always avoid an unexpected healthcare expense (even with insurance coverage).
For some families, there may be an option that can make costs more manageable. If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, you might be eligible for what’s called a Health Savings Account (or HSA). You can open an HSA either on your own or through your employer, as long as you also have a qualifying insurance plan. You can decide what you’d like to contribute to your HSA each year (and you can even set up automatic contributions through your employer’s payroll system); you just can’t exceed the maximum contributions outlined by the government. Best of all, these contributions are tax-free. You’ll receive checks or a debit card that are linked to your HSA account, which can be used to pay for many kinds of medical expenses.
Although you usually can’t pay for your health insurance premium using HSA funds, you can often cover visit deductibles, copays, and coinsurance, as well as a number of services, products, and medications. For example, anything from acne and allergy medication to menstrual products and insulin are reimbursable with an HSA.
In addition, eye care and dental care can often be paid for with these funds. Since many insurance plans don’t offer much (if any) coverage for certain exams or treatments, this can be a real life-saver for many families. You can pay for many common services with your HSA funds — and in some cases, orthodontic work may be reimbursed. Around 4 million Americans now wear braces, which are placed by the 5% of dentists who are also orthodontists. For many parents, this can make it easier to pay for the orthodontic work their kids need. That said, there are certain services and products that are not eligible for HSA use, like vitamins, child care, or cosmetic procedures.
In general, you can use your HSA funds to cover medical bills for yourself and your spouse, as well as any dependents you claim on your tax return. Note that your children need to be under the age of 19 (or the age of 24, if they’re an enrolled student) to be eligible for HSA fund use. They also need to live with you for at least half the year and rely on you for at least half of their financial support.
Opening an HSA might not be the right choice for everyone. Even if your healthcare plan comes with a high deductible, you might not legally qualify for an HSA. But for many families, this can make it easier to save for medical emergencies or regular care when their insurance options are limited.