A health savings account is a specialized account that you can use to store money, tax-free, to spend on health-related expenses – anything from dentist visits to wheelchairs. You can generally invest funds in your HSA as you would a brokerage account or an IRA, and you can check your current balance through the website of the company that hosts your account. If you withdraw money for non-health-related expenses, you will owe a tax penalty.
Setting up an HSA
You are eligible to set up and contribute to a health savings account if you have a qualified high-deductible health plan. This generally requires a deductible of at least $1,350 as of 2018, and the plan must meet other minimum coverage requirements.
You can set up an HSA through your employer, if your employer offers one, or through a private company. Generally, you can contribute up to $3,400 per year to an HSA if you have appropriate high-deductible health coverage for yourself or $6,750 if you have high-deductible family coverage.
Once the money is in your HSA, you normally have a variety of funds available that you can invest in, depending on your desires for growth versus stability. The money you put into the HSA is deductible from your taxes or simply deposited on a pre-tax basis if you have an HSA through your employer.
Using HSA Funds
You can use your HSA funds to pay for a variety of qualified medical expenses, including doctor and dentist visits, ambulance services, vision care and prescription drugs. Many HSAs will provide you with a debit card that you can use to spend the funds in your account directly with a medical provider. Usually, you can pay using your own funds or credit card and get reimbursed from the HSA later on if you prefer.
Generally, you can check your HSA balance online to see how much money is remaining in your account.
Some HSAs also offer online bill pay and even check-writing abilities if that's a more convenient way to pay your medical providers. Since HSA funds grow tax-free, some advisers suggest that you wait to use them as long as possible, potentially into your retirement, so that they are able to appreciate in value and earn interest and dividends before you use them. Whether that makes sense for you depends on your overall financial needs and goals.
If you withdraw money from an HSA for a reason other than to pay a qualified medical expense, that money generally will be subject to income tax, plus a 20 percent tax penalty from the Internal Revenue Service.