With repeal of the Affordable Care Act looming, one surprising factor in paying for health care could see its star rise higher on the horizon—the retirement planning horizon, that is. That’s the Health Savings Account—and it’s likely to become more prominent depending on what replaces the ACA.
HSAs occupy a larger role in some of the proposed replacements to the ACA put forth by Republican legislators, and with that greater exposure comes a greater likelihood that more people will rely on them more heavily to get them through other changes.
For one thing, they’ll need to boost their savings in HSAs just to pay the higher deductibles and uncovered expenses that are likely to accompany the ACA repeal.
But for another—and here’s where it gets interesting—they’ll probably become a larger part of retirement planning, since they provide a number of benefits already that could help boost retirement savings.
Contributions are already deductible from gross income, but under at least one of the proposals to replace the ACA, contributions could come with refundable tax credits—a nice perk.
Another proposal would allow HSA funds to pay for premiums on proposed new state health exchanges without a tax penalty for doing so—also beneficial. And a third would expand eligibility to have HSAs, which would be helpful.
But whether these and other possible enhancements to HSAs come to pass, there are already plenty of reasons to consider bolstering HSA savings for retirement. As workers try to navigate their way through the uncertainty that lies ahead, they’ll probably rely even more on the features these plans already offer—such as the ability to leave funds in the account (if not needed for higher medical expenses) to roll over from year to year and to grow for the future, and the fact that interest on HSA money is tax free.
But possibly the biggest benefit to an HSA for retirement is the fact that funds invested in one grow tax free as well. If you can leave the money there long enough, you can grow a sizeable nest egg against potential future health expenses or even the purchase of a long-term care policy. And, at age 65, you’re no longer penalized if you withdraw funds for nonapproved medical expenses.
And if you don’t use the money for medical expenses in retirement, but are past 65, you can use it for living expenses to supplement your 401(k). In that case, you’ll have to pay taxes on it, but there’s no penalty—it just works much like a tax-deferred situation from a regular retirement account.