Feb 8, 2012
Health savings accounts are a relatively new concept, developed in response to healthcare consumers demand for something similar to an FSA (flexible spending account) but without the one major drawback; HSA funds roll over year after year, whereas the consumer forfeits the remaining balance of an FSA at year end. The funds removed from the employee paycheck are still withheld from pre-tax dollars, but use of the funds are regulated in a manner similar to IRA’s (indicidual retirement accounts). Hence, many people are switching to HSA’s.
photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives
Owned by the employee, not the employerOther differences that make these health savings accounts more desireable than FSA’s include,
- Available to employees with a health plan having a high annual deductible
- Contribution limits are higher, allowing the employee the flexibility to use this account in a manner more similar to an IRA, but with the advantage it is easier to withdraw amounts for qualified medical spending
In effect, the bill signed into law in 2003 by President George W. Bush attempts to provide the same advantages as both IRA’s and FSA’s, but without the drawbacks. These were part of a larger reform called Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act which replaced the Medical Savings Accounts.
Within 4 years of operation, HSA’s covered over 4.5 million Americans and about three-quarters of these were employer-sponsored plans, meaning that companies were clearly using these plans as a benefit for their employees.
This is smart, for although employers could set up FSA’s, HSA’s provide the same benefits except the employee owns the account, thus making it an excellent benefit offering, especially among highly competitive fields of work.
Would You Benefit from an HSA?
As with any plan developed by the government, there are arguments both pro and con regarding HSA’s. Naturally, there are advocacy groups lining up on both sides of the issue and the debate is likely to continue for years. The single largest argument against these accounts is that, unlike a traditional savings account (which is taxable, both on the income and the interest), HSA’s are subject to the same market devaluations and falls as other such investments; all fall outside the protection of the FDIC. However, given the advantages, many consumers consider HSA’s to be a good option.
Regardless, the benefits to the employee include,
- Tax reductions – Contributions are pre-tax and not taxed unless withdrawn for sue other than medical
- Simplicity of use – Many carriers are now offering cards similar to a debit card, but for use only for qualified medical expenses; some provide checks; some offer flexible withdrawal methods
- Added Qualified Expenses – many expenses not often covered by health insurance, such as chiropractor’s, eye care, dental, and DME (durable medical equipment) can be purchased using these funds (in other words, whereas such expenses would not be covered by the deductible, they can still be purchased using the pre-tax dollars in the account.
- Simplified records – many people who use these accounts also itemize taxes; many HSA providers provide an annual statement of expenses, making tax time a breeze
- Funds for other-than-medical-use – can be withdrawn much easier than with an IRA, but is still subject to a tax penalty of 20% UNLESS the account holder is 65 or disabled.
- Rollover – because this fund is more akin to an IRA, the funds roll over to the next year and the account grows and accrues interest
If you have been given the option to consider a health savings account by your employer, take the time to review all options offered and be sure to speak to your tax advisor to receive the latest information affecting your situation.
Then, armed with this information, you can make an informed decision; most likely, you will opt in favor of these savings plans, for it certainly appears that the benefits greatly out-weight the drawbacks.
Sam Mauz is a financial blogger who works with a company that sells pay day loans. When not writing or reading about finances Sam can be found hiking or doing other outdoor activities.
Sep 22, 2010
I have a friend who recently found out he has a cyst on the wrist. While he hasn’t had it checked by a doctor yet, he thinks it may be work related. He’s a writer, just like me. He works most of the day and most of the night on client assignments. Typing away on your keyboard all day like that is bound to do some bad things to your hands and wrist.
I think these conditions can be avoided or at least minimized if you can manage your resources in a balanced way. By resources, I mean your time, energy and your body’s capabilities.
Get enough rest
Freelancers like myself usually have a very erratic schedule. Since I work from home, I sometimes find myself having to manage a few household tasks every day. this can include helping out with the cooking, bringing the kids to school, and the like. While those don’t exactly eat your time in a big way, sometimes it might give you difficulty in gaining momentum.
And so many in my profession are fond of working during nighttime, when everything is quiet. The problem here is that your health suffers. Your eyesight suffers. Your body suffers.
Tip: get at least six hours of sleep per day. Studies show that’s the optimal level of sleep for an adult. Too little and you won’t be well-rested. Too much and you will feel fatigued from too much sleep.
Use the right tools
Gadget companies usually come up with “ergonomic” stuff. Ergonomic this and ergonomic that. These are usually meant to fit better with your body. An ergonomic mouse might be easier to hold than one that focuses more on style than function. An ergonomic keyboard promotes a more relaxed posture.
Aside from buying the right gadgets, ergonomics will also involve using them right. If you work with computer screens all day, set the monitor at eye level, so you don’t have to slouch or nod down to view the screen. If you drive for a living, set your seat height, backrest, and steering wheel tilt, such that you don’t exert too much effort in turning the wheel or working the pedals.
Tip: work in a comfortable position. If you can’t achieve this with your existing setup, then buy or improvise.
You will also need to keep yourself fit. If you’re a writer, you don’t have to sit all day in front of your screen mulling word after word. Stand up and stretch every 30 minutes. Rest your eyes by closing them a couple of minutes and then focusing them on a faraway object. Go to the gym. A fit body can help improve posture, which, in turn minimizes injuries.
Tip: don’t let your body stay in one position for extended periods of time. If you work sitting down, walk around every half hour or so. If you work standing up, don’t let your weight fall on both feet 100% of the time–shift positions often.
Different professions have different needs. In your line of work, what can help minimize or avoid work-related sicknesses?
Aug 7, 2008
Following a regular exercise routine is known to keep our bodies into shape. But today, it seems that exercise can also make us wiser. Most of these activities point towards the brain, an internal organ we rarely give attention when we are sweating it out. But look at the fact. We do certain repetition of an exercise, which needs the use of our brain. In essence we are using our intellect to stay fit as well.
Work related issues need proper decision-making. Often, we find ourselves bumming out for one reason or another. A lot of the people who experience this are more concerned of reporting for work to be paid. But as far as production is concerned, most could care less. There are many people who are already satisfied with where they are while the career stepping elite are finding ways to improve their standing and attain personal career goals.
A fit body can produce a sound mind. Memorization and building on logical choices can relatively be improved. You just have to find a way to fire up those brain cells to get the job done. With regular exercise, you are not only covering health issues of keeping fit but also making sure that your mind is functioning up to par with the proper mental exercises that many often forget.
Even when we are sitting or lying down, our bodies send our brains regular updates about how our limbs are positioned. When we, say, stand and begin walking, these electric messages need to be sent more often. (Knee is bent, straight, bent, straight …) Move fast enough and the electrical activity doesn’t have time to dissipate between each message. It begins building up in the brain and eventually triggers a release of chemicals called growth factors.
Growth factors are like manna for neurons. “They make neurons stronger, healthier and improve their ability to learn,” Cotman said. In the presence of growth factors, new neurons are born and old ones sprout, grow and form better connections with each other. Blood vessels blossom along side the neurons, giving them quick access to glucose and other nutrients. All this, in turn, improves our ability to think, learn and remember. As Cotman said, exercise “builds the pipes” for improved cognition.
Jul 5, 2008
We all want to prove a point as far as being successful in our careers but apparently most people these days forget one important thing, health. A person cannot go to work, be productive and last long in a profession if health is not taken care off. Apparently we all see that in most companies, annual physical exams are given not only as a privilege but to also make sure that a company’s labor force is healthy and free from potential health risks.
Overtime work or extending beyond the usual working hours is a common sight. But while your superior may acknowledge and praise you for your dedication to your work, you just have to consider as well by balancing diligence with work output. Of the two, efforts put into trying to achieve success in one aspect of work-related issues is commendable. But it can also mean incompetence since it may mean failure to meet deadlines as set beforehand. So in the end, you get a double black-eye, incompetence and poor health.
There are a lot of factors to consider if an employee is indeed suitable for a job. But there are also some thing to consider on an individual’s end such as:
1. Full understanding of the Job Scope
2. Ability to meet Deadlines
3. Output Capacity
Without a doubt the last one, self-discipline would depend on a person’s purpose in life. We can easily spot how dedicated and serious a person is through his lifestyle. A silent worker does not mean that he will not have a social life. Further, you also have to consider personal issues which may also affect performance.
In all, it boils down to being able to manage yourself as a worker and meeting the employer requirements. In the middle of it all, you have to stay healthy to survive it all. If not, you may just find yourself being among the people who are lacking to achieve anything both in personal and corporate drives.