Discover a World of Savings with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

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Columbus Day reminds us that exploring the unknown can lead to important discoveries. Take health insurance for example. Virtually no one knew about Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) until 2004. Today, however, millions of people have explored this relatively new option to find it can save them thousands of dollars each year.

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The basics of a Health Savings Account aren't all that complicated. HSAs are an alternative to traditional health insurance that allows you to save money in a tax-free account, like an IRA, to pay for routine medical expenses. With an HSA, you can pay for current health expenses–and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses–all on a tax-free basis.

To open an HSA, you must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), which have lower premiums than traditional health insurance plans. Once you're enrolled, you own and have complete control over the money in your HSA. You make the decisions on how you want it spent not a third party or a health insurer. You also get to decide how and where you want to invest money to grow your account.

More than 6.1 million Americans have already opened HSA accounts. In addition to lower premium costs, there are several reasons for their popularity. First, your contributions (up to $5,800 for families in 2008) are tax deductible and you pay no tax on withdrawals for qualified medical expenses.

Second, your HSA funds are completely portable and roll over from year to year – even if you change jobs, take a job that doesn't offer insurance, start your own business or retire. You can also pay for any qualified medical procedure without having to get it specifically approved, regardless of any pre-existing conditions. You can use your HSA account during retirement to pay for health care, Medicare expenses and prescription drugs.

Could you benefit from an HSA? One way to find out is to go to the educational Web site HSAInsights.com. It is designed to help you understand the basics of HSAs and to provide resources and tools for making smart choices. It also includes a calculator to estimate how much you can save with an HSA compared to a traditional health plan. You can even determine its potential future value based on your expected contributions and expenses.

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Emily Shirden
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