Taxes

Tax Facts: It's time to get organized with tax forms

Bust out your party hats — it's time to think about taxes. The government shutdown may be over, but that doesn't mean the IRS is ready. Sifting through the tax overhaul is already a major undertaking, and the shutdown has left the agency with limited time to prepare. According to reports, it will take a while for things to get back to normal.

You can't speed up the government's timeline, but you can make an effort to work ahead. Tracking down the right tax forms is the perfect place to start. If you have a health savings account (HSA), there will be a few more to watch for. Here's a list of what you need.

Complete your tax return with these HSA forms

You may not enjoy stalking your mail carrier for tax forms, but you can't file your taxes without them. Luckily, there aren't too many forms to keep track of. These are the ones you need:

  • Form W-2 - If you work for someone else, you receive Form W-2 every year. This form includes a breakdown of your income. If part of your earnings was put into your HSA, you can see that amount here. You should receive Form W-2 by early February. The deadline for your company to send it is January 31, 2020.
  • Form 5498-SA - When you put money into your HSA, the IRS wants to know about it. That is the purpose of Form 5498-SA. You can make HSA contributions until the tax deadline, so this form shows up a lot later — possibly even by the end of May. A copy goes to both you and the IRS.

These HSA forms are part of your tax return

Because HSAs offer three different tax benefits, the IRS is eager to stay on top of any moves you make. The three forms above track your activity for the year. Once you have them handy, it's easy for you (or your tax software!) to complete these two:

  • Form 5329 - When it comes to HSA contributions, there is a strict annual limit. If you contributed too much, you need to fill out Form 5329. But you should try to avoid doing this because the IRS charges a 6% tax on the extra amount.
  • Form 8889 - Form 8889 is also part of your tax return. It includes the year's contributions and withdrawals. If you spent any HSA money on "non-qualified medical expenses," the IRS treats it like taxable income. They will also add an extra 20% tax on top of it all.

Your state may require a different set of forms

Once you have gathered your federal HSA tax forms, it may be tempting to cross it off your list and move on. But you could be overlooking your state's filing requirements. The best way to know for sure is by speaking with a tax professional in your state.

Taking back control of your taxes

There is nothing you can do to control future shutdowns or sweeping tax law changes. But you may rest a little easier knowing your own taxes are in order. By keeping track of the necessary paperwork, you will be one step closer to filing your taxes on time. Being punctual is by no means a guarantee you will receive a faster refund — but you won't be adding to the delays.


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Tax Facts is a weekly column offering straight up, no-nonsense HSA tax and finance tips, written in everyday language. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the HSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Living Well

Tax Facts: Still not enrolled in health insurance? Now's the time…

This time of year, you're either scrambling to finish work or scoping out last minute gifts from your desk to look "busy." Either way, your health insurance plan — or lack thereof — may be low on your list of priorities.

The truth is, you may be more concerned by your glut of unused PTO or chipping in for a New Year's Eve blowout. And with the individual mandate going away in January, there is less of a reason to get covered.

Even if you're young and healthy, winging it without a plan is risky. Here's why you can't afford to skip health insurance coverage for 2019.

Many health plans cover preventive care

For many of us, wellness is a lifelong challenge. The stress of work, family, and money is enough to lose sleep over. And when you're tired, ordering pizza and watching Netflix every night is pretty appealing. The problem is, years of stress, little sleep, lack of exercise, and poor diet choices can lead to chronic illness.

The good news is, most health insurance plans cover preventative care. That means annual checkups with your doctor, screenings, and shots won't cost extra. Marketplace plans pay for screenings for depression, diet counseling, lung cancer, obesity, and more. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preventive care uncovers illnesses and diseases when they're easiest to treat — and most likely to be successful.

Of course, saving money on health care is a good thing, but living a long, healthy life is what's most important. Preventive care is one way to make that happen and it may be more affordable than you expect.

Everyday health needs


Health insurance prepares you for the worst

Let's pretend you had the chance to join your company's health policy or buy insurance through the Marketplace, but waived both opportunities. It may be fine until your annual toe wrestling tournament (yup, it's really a thing!) goes horribly wrong and you wind up with a broken leg.

Some innocent fun may quickly turn into a nightmare when you realize the injury may set you back up to $7,500. That's no small chunk of change — and it only gets more expensive from there. A three-day hospital stint could rack up $30,000 and treating cancer could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Health insurance won't protect you from out-of-pocket expenses. But it may shield your family from the types of bills that could cause financial catastrophe. Marketplace plans even have a cap on the total amount you will have to pay.

Imperfect health insurance is better than none at all

It's easy to understand why you may choose to opt-out of health insurance. It's expensive, confusing, and — let's face it — it doesn't feel much like coverage when your bills start rolling in. But even a flawed plan is better than going without. Life throws you enough financial curveballs. There is no need to make unexpected high medical bills another one of them.

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Tax Facts is a weekly column offering straight up, no-nonsense HSA tax and account tips, written in everyday language. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the HSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Accounts

Compound It! Can I use my HSA with a catastrophic health plan?

Health insurance feels like a gamble. We wrestle with the decision of paying more now or later. Should we choose higher monthly premiums? Or roll the dice on a high-deductible health plan and potentially pay more out-of-pocket?

Catastrophic health plans have emerged as an affordable option. But not everyone is eligible. Even if you do qualify, some preliminary number crunching is necessary. We've covered the basics to make your decision easier.

What is a catastrophic health plan?

While browsing healthcare.gov, you may have noticed a catastrophic health plan option. These plans pair low monthly premiums with very high deductibles. You'll have coverage in worst-case scenarios — like a medical emergency. But everything else is your responsibility.

Not everyone qualifies for a catastrophic health plan. They are only available if you're under 30 or qualify for a hardship or affordability exemption. If healthcare.gov says you're eligible, you'll see this option as you're comparing plans.

Opting for a catastrophic health plan means you'll pay for a lot on your own. The good news is you'll have the same "essential benefits" of other Marketplace plans. This means access to preventive services without a copayment. This includes up to three visits with your primary care doctor every year — whether you've met your deductible or not.

Is a catastrophic health plan right for you?

Catastrophic health plans may save you from serious medical debt. But like all high-deductible health plans, there are risks. If you qualify for catastrophic health plan, you need to consider how much coverage you actually need.

If you rarely see the doctor and don't fill prescriptions every month, you won't pay much out-of-pocket. But if you have a chronic condition that needs regular care, you could be paying hundreds of extra dollars a month.

Another downside is you'll waive your right to premium tax credits or subsidies. Paired with one of these, other Marketplace plans could be a better deal. This assumes you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid — which could be available for even less.

Can I still use my HSA?

When paying for out-of-pocket health expenses, many of us are eager for relief. Health savings accounts (HSAs) are one way to ease the burden. One of the ways HSAs save you money is by allowing you to contribute before taxes. And you'll never have to pay them — as long as you spend your HSA balance on qualified health expenses.

We can all agree HSAs are a good thing. The downside is many health insurance plans aren't HSA-eligible. This means you can't make contributions until you're enrolled in an eligible plan.

If you're already enrolled in a catastrophic health plan, and hoping to reap these tax benefits, we have some bad news: they aren't HSA-eligible. At least one bill has been introduced in 2018 to change this, but it's impossible to know when or if that will happen.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Choosing a health plan is a big decision — one that shouldn't be taken lightly — impacting your family's finances for years to come. Because there is no rule of thumb, it may not be clear. Luckily, there's a network of independent agents, brokers, and others who can help. A local expert may be only a few clicks away, and tapping an expert may help you see if a catastrophic health plan makes sense.

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Compound It! is your weekly update of achievable, effective, no-nonsense HSA saving and investment advice, delivered by people who make it work in their own lives. For the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out the HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Fees

Compound It! Being smart with HSA reimbursements

We've mentioned it many times on this site, but high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) can be difficult on your wallet if you're not prepared. A lot of spending happens before your insurance kicks in. But health savings accounts (HSAs) can ease the sting by offering a few different ways to save on taxes. Money goes in before paying taxes, it grows tax-free, and you can use it anytime for qualified expenses.

When it's time to pay for expenses, you may know the choices: 1) swipe your HSA debit card or 2) reimburse yourself later. If you forgot to pay yourself back for last year's eye exam, we've got some good news — there's no deadline to get that done. However, there are some things you should also consider before emptying your account.

(As always, know that we're not tax professionals, nor should this article be considered professional tax and financial advice. To find the best solutions for your needs, be sure to speak to a qualified financial professional before making any decisions.)

There's no deadline for HSA reimbursements

There are lots of reasons to love your HSA, and here's one more — you can reimburse yourself for expenses years after they occurred. According to the IRS, there is no time limit for paying yourself back, but there are some rules (we'll explain more below). You can't reimburse yourself for expenses incurred before you had an HSA. They're also expecting you to keep meticulous records.

Be careful with multiple years of reimbursements

As you learn there's no reimbursement deadline, you may think of paying for medical expenses out-of-pocket, and start stockpiling receipts. Then, you can cash them in many years later by reimbursing yourself. Well, you're not the first one to consider it. Plenty of folks have been doing this for years.

What appears to be the "ultimate hack" requires an extreme level of discipline. Staying on top of receipts for many years isn't easy. And not everyone is equipped to handle that level of record-keeping.

If you decide to reimburse yourself many years later, and the IRS sniffs around, they will ask for proof. Audits do happen. If you can't provide detailed records, you could get stuck paying income tax plus a 20% penalty on your years of withdrawals.

Always keep immaculate records

Being audited is every taxpayer's worst nightmare. If this happened to you, and your HSA distributions were suspect, here's what the IRS would look for:

  1. Your HSA withdrawals were only used to pay for qualified medical expenses.
  2. Your medical expenses weren't paid for or reimbursed from another source.
  3. You didn't take an itemized deduction for these medical expenses in any year. (That's double-dipping!)

Saving receipts and keeping detailed records is always a must. If you take a distribution, your HSA provider will send you Form 1099-SA. Be prepared to report everything with Form 8889. If anything doesn't match, resolve it before filing your taxes.

Itemized receipts should match your HSA withdrawals to the penny. Don't be afraid to call drug stores, doctor's offices, or hospitals for receipts. Their billing department will have access to a line-by-line breakdown of the year's spending.

Timing is important, though. You may have better luck chasing down receipts in November than the first week in April. Your odds of a tax audit may be low, but that's no excuse to get lazy with paperwork.

Reimbursing yourself now means less money for retirement

It's hard to say more choices are bad, but allowing your money to grow may be better. Healthcare will be one of your biggest expenses in retirement. By investing your HSA money now, you could end up with more options when you need it most.

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Compound It! is your weekly update of achievable, effective, no-nonsense HSA saving and investment advice, delivered by people who make it work in their own lives. For the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out the HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Accounts

Future Healthy: Avoid these Medicare enrollment mistakes

As your retirement gets closer, it's normal to feel uncertain. The next phase of your life holds a lot of wild cards, and these can be difficult to plan for. Of all the question marks, health care is one of the biggest. The average couple spends $280,000 on healthcare in retirement. It's a line item too expensive to ignore.

Medicare is one way to soften the financial blow. It's an opportunity for guaranteed and affordable health insurance. But only if you follow a strict set of rules.

The different parts of Medicare

Medicare is the government's health insurance program. Most people sign up at 65, but if you have certain disabilities, it may be possible to enroll sooner. You may also qualify with end-stage renal disease. Let's look at the different parts of the program.

Part A - This is often called "hospital insurance." Part A covers hospital stays and short-term care in a skilled nursing facility. It also includes some services at home. Learn more about the specifics here.

Part B - This is also called "medical insurance." Part B covers visits with certain doctors, outpatient care, and medical supplies. Preventative services are also included. It's important to know you're responsible for 20% of these expenses. The coverage details are here.

Part D - These are Medicare-approved private plans covering prescription drugs.

TIP: Parts A and B don't cover everything. You'll still have deductibles, coinsurance and copayments, and are still on the hook for:

  • Long-term care
  • Most dental care
  • Eye exams
  • Dentures
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Acupuncture
  • Hearing aids and exams for fitting them
  • Routine foot care

Mistake #1 - Failing to sign up when you're first eligible

If you haven't reached your full retirement age yet, enrolling in Medicare may not be top of mind. The problem is, it's easy to miss a key deadline. You have a seven-month window to sign up for Part A and Part B. This includes:

  • Three months before you turn 65
  • The month you turn 65
  • Three months after you turn 65

If you don't enroll in Medicare Part B when you're first eligible, you may face a late enrollment penalty. It could be 10% more monthly premiums for each 12-month you were eligible but didn't sign up. This penalty stays with you for as long as you're using Medicare Part B.

It's possible you'll also have to wait until January 1 - March 31 to sign up. This means your coverage wouldn't start until the following July.

If you didn't sign up because you can't afford it, your state may offer resources to help cover deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. You can learn more about the four types of Medicare Savings Programs here.

Mistake #2 - Missing the Medigap enrollment window

If you're healthy now, it may be hard to imagine a different scenario. But the truth is, no one has a crystal ball. Things may change faster than you expect. In an ideal world, Medicare would cover all your healthcare expenses. Unfortunately, the realities of coverage look a lot different.

Medigap is a private insurance policy to cover copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles. For example, Medigap may cover the 20% Part B deductible you'd normally have to pay. Like other types of insurance, you'll qualify for the best plan when you're younger and healthier.

Tip: There's a six-month Medigap enrollment window. The clock starts ticking once you've enrolled in Medicare Part B. After that, it's possible you won't qualify for a plan. Even if you do, it may be more expensive.

Mark your calendar for these critical deadlines

Missing the deadline to sign up for Medicare Part A, Part B, or Medigap is more than a simple mistake. It will cost you a lot more money for years to come. Do yourself a favor by setting more than one reminder. You'll sleep better knowing you'll be ready when the time comes.

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Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Living Well

Future Healthy: Burning out before 30 … an HSA story

It's easy to take health for granted in your 20s. Late nights, lack of sleep, and poor diet may seem like they're easy to overcome. But your body can wear down like a neglected machine. I know because this happened to me — before the age of 30.

After years of traveling and working 70-80 hour weeks, fatigue set in. Even the longest nights of sleep weren't enough. My short-term memory lagged and anxiety made basic tasks impossible. Through the flood of confusion, one thing was clear: I was burning out and becoming depressed.

Paying for healthcare myself

When I was ready to face my illness, I uncovered a costly surprise — no mental health coverage. A couple of tearful calls to my health insurance provider confirmed it. If I wanted therapy, I would pay every penny myself. With no emergency fund and little room in my budget, my journey to recovery was over before it began.

I started ruthlessly slashing expenses left and right — shopping, eating out, and partying all had to go. Soon, there was enough to cover a reasonably-priced therapist. A combo of talk therapy and medication improved my symptoms within a few months.

With a clearer mind, I ramped up my savings and finally built a six-month emergency fund — about $20,000. It wasn't a lot of money, but it gave me the confidence to quit my stressful job. I spent a few months resting to repair the damage from burnout.

My first high-deductible health plan (HDHP)

Quitting my job offered many benefits. The time to focus on health was priceless. The only downside was losing my group health insurance. I found an HDHP I could afford through a local broker. The premiums were low, but like many, I worried about the out-of-pocket expenses.

A few months later, I picked up a part-time contract job to ease back into the working lifestyle. The extra cash flow was comforting. As time went on, I realized it wasn't enough, though. The reality of my high-deductible plan was more obvious with each medical expense. A few costly doctor's bills put a major dent in the emergency fund I worked so hard to build.

Adding a health savings account (HSA)

It wasn't long before I started looking for ways to save. A little digging online uncovered the world of health savings accounts (HSAs). As long as I kept my HDHP, I could save on taxes by contributing up to my annual limit.

I could also invest the money and withdraw it tax-free for future medical expenses. Best of all, changing health plans wouldn't stop me from using the money if I needed it.

My health emergency fund

As I started making more money, maxing out my HSA became a priority. Over the past few years, I've resisted the urge to tap the balance. $10,736 isn't a ton of money to some, but it could cover minor health emergencies like a relapse in depression.

In a few years, there may be enough for a bigger expense. And if I stay consistent, I could have almost $300,000* in 30 years for healthcare expenses in retirement. (*Assuming monthly contributions of $291, compounded monthly at 5% for 30 years.)

I've come a long way since I quit my job. I devote a lot more time to physical and mental wellness, and will never take health for granted again. But things change when you least expect it. Because of this, funding my HSA is now an integral part of my monthly budget.

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Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Future Healthy: Use your HSA to pay for long-term care

If you're nearing retirement, it's no secret healthcare is expensive. According to Fidelity, the average couple will spend $280,000 in retirement. This number alone is staggering enough — especially when half of U.S. families have no retirement savings.

Worse, $280,000 doesn't include the cost of long-term care, which can range from $3,628 - $7,698 per month, depending on where you live. With price tags like these, it's easy to see why many families can't afford it.

End-of-life care is difficult to think about, so it's easy to push planning to the back burner. The problem is, there's a high probability you'll need it, and it becomes more expensive the longer you wait. Popular solutions include long-term care insurance, life insurance riders, Medicaid, or even reverse mortgages.

Regardless of which one you choose, it will be an extra expense — and one that you'll need to budget for. Health savings accounts (HSAs) are one way to ease the financial burden. If you're ready to tap your balance, these are the important things to know.

Long-term care premiums with your HSA

Long-term care insurance is tricky. Like many types of insurance, premiums are cheaper when you're younger and healthier. By your 60s and 70s, it may be difficult to qualify and premiums may be expensive.

One way to save is by using your HSA to cover premiums. The downside is your withdrawals aren't entirely tax-free. There's a limit and the benefit improves as you get older. If you're 40 or younger, the tax-free limit is $420. The limits range from $770 if you're under 50 and up to $5,110 if you're over 70. The lowest of these tax benefits isn't enough to offset the average premium, but the extra savings helps.

Tip: Don't assume your plan is automatically eligible for tax savings. Ask your provider to confirm it's a qualified contract. The government has rules about long-term care insurance plans — and which ones are qualified. For example, your plan must be guaranteed renewable. This means your policy must remain in force as long as premiums are paid. You can see the rest of the rules here.

No matter which plan you choose, you should expect premiums to increase as you get older. If you can't afford it, you'll surrender the original coverage you signed up for.

Long-term care expenses with your HSA

Diligently saving money in your HSA offers a lot of benefits. Tax deductions, tax-free growth, and tax-free withdrawals can add up to major savings.

Long-term care expenses have the opposite impact on your wallet. Without long-term care insurance, you may be stuck covering expenses out-of-pocket. The good news is, many of these are qualified medical expenses. This means they are eligible for tax-free withdrawals from your HSA.

Thanks to the tax savings, you're getting a discount with every HSA dollar you spend. Publication 502 explains what is and isn't a qualified medical expense, but if you're not sure, it's always better to err on the side of caution and ask a tax professional. Otherwise, you could be slapped with an unexpected 20% penalty and income tax.

We should also mention -- even though it's a long way off from passing -- the Homecare for Seniors Act (H.R.6813), which was recently introduced in the House. If passed, it would allow some assistance expenses -- like those for eating, dressing, medication adherence and even travel -- to be covered by distributions from HSAs. Expect to hear more about this in the months to come.

Long-term care is a wildcard

When it comes to healthcare in retirement, one thing is certain — it's really expensive. If you're one of the few who escapes the drain of long-term care expenses, consider yourself lucky. For everyone else, it's a wildcard with the potential to wipe your savings.

Your health savings account may not cover it all, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't fund it. When medical bills start piling up, you'll be grateful for any amount you've stashed away.

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Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Accounts

Compound It! Are health sharing plans a viable long-term option?

The cost of health insurance climbs every year. You know skipping coverage is a no-go. But you can't afford the monthly premiums. So what should your family do? Some folks are turning to health sharing programs.

These programs usually have some type of religious affiliation. You may see lower monthly premiums — but more red tape when it comes to benefits. If you're considering this alternative, weigh the risks before making a decision.

What are health sharing programs?

Health sharing programs are known for being faith-based. Your family's monthly share may range from $300 - $500 per month. At a fraction of the average health insurance premium, it's easy to see the appeal. Lower deductibles and out-of-pocket limits are also common.

When it's time to pay, these programs handle bills a couple of different ways. Sometimes they'll match members with each other. The other option is pooling contributions to pay for approved medical expenses.

Sure, these programs are cheaper on the front end. But you won't have the same coverage as plans purchased through the marketplace. It's common to see exclusions for pre-existing conditions. Eligibility is also very different between programs. Some may ask for proof of your religious faith. Other programs — like Liberty Healthshare — are more inclusive.

How health sharing programs are different

Health sharing programs look a lot like health insurance. This makes it easy to think you are buying health insurance, when you aren't. Government oversight and guarantees are key distinctions. Health sharing programs aren't regulated, and your participation is voluntary. But insurance is a legally binding agreement between you and your insurance company. They agree to pay for specific expenses in exchange for your monthly premium.

Common pitfalls to watch for

Non-biblical expenses - When you join, you're agreeing to live a secular lifestyle. Thus, it's common to see no coverage for expenses like abortion, unmarried pregnancies, or injuries from a drunk driving.

Pre-existing conditions - If you have an pre-existing, chronic illness, it's possible you can't join a health sharing plan. Even if you are approved, there's no guaranteed coverage for your pre-existing condition.

Ongoing prescriptions - Often, health sharing plans won't foot the bill for long-term, ongoing prescriptions. After a short period of time, you can expect to pay for these on your own.

You can't keep funding your HSA with a health sharing plan

There's another major downside to health sharing plans. They're not a high-deductible health plan, so you can't contribute to your health savings account (HSA). If you've been treating your HSA as a long-term savings vehicle, switching to a health savings plan will slow your progress.

Of course, you can still spend your HSA money, provided it's for an eligible medical expense. This could be especially handy if you're stuck paying for anything you didn't plan for. And given the restrictions of many health savings plans, an HSA with a sizable balance could help.

Although you can't contribute to your HSA now, changes may be on the horizon. Congress has taken steps to make health sharing plans and HSAs more compatible. But nothing has been signed into law yet.

Always read the fine print

When you can't afford monthly insurance premiums, health sharing plans may seem like a good deal. If you're willing to roll the dice, and you're healthy, these plans might save your family some money. At least in the beginning.

But it's critical to understand the risks — especially what your plan doesn't cover. These plans aren't health insurance. There are no guarantees. And they don't offer the same comprehensive coverage.

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Compound It! is your weekly update of achievable, effective, no-nonsense HSA saving and investment advice, delivered by people who make it work in their own lives. For the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out the HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Living Well

Future Healthy: Could telehealth slash your health care costs?

In the era of two-hour Amazon Prime and instant movies on Netflix, we've grown to expect a certain level of convenience. These services are affordable and make our lives easier. Is it reasonable to expect the same from our health care? Telehealth says yes. If you aren't reaping the benefits of the latest in health care technology, you probably will be soon.

What is telehealth?

Telehealth — which is also called telemedicine — allows doctors to examine and treat you from afar. Virtual appointments may happen through your computer, tablet or smartphone. Popular services include primary care, dermatology, psychotherapy, and non-life-threatening injuries.

What are the advantages of telehealth?

Telehealth revenue is expected to grow past $7 billion by 2020 and it's easy to see why. But, families living in rural areas may feel the biggest impacts. These communities already have lower rates of health insurance coverage. Local provider shortages and little transportation access make it difficult to get quality care. As technology and access to broadband internet improves, telehealth could make a big difference.


Telehealth can also be convenient for patients with physical disabilities in both urban and rural areas. Even with access to public transportation or a personal vehicle, physical challenges can make it difficult to get around.

Able-bodied patients with demanding schedules may struggle to squeeze in routine health appointments. But logging online for a check-up after work could make things easier. There's no doubt about it — telehealth could offer benefits for all types of patients.

But will your health insurance pay for it?

According to a recent Washington Post report, Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and all private health plans cover some level of telehealth.

So, is it safe to expect a reimbursement for your latest e-visit for a prescription refill? Well, it depends. Each insurance company offers a different level of coverage. The only way to know for sure is by double-checking directly with your provider.

For example, Cigna's Marketplace plan offers telehealth through their online portal. The service is offered through American Well. According to my plan's telehealth portal, I can connect with a board-certified physician virtually for $49. There is also access to video-based counseling and mental health prescription management.

Can telehealth save you money on health care?

Convenience is a great thing, but for most of us, the price is often a deciding factor. Whether you decide to embrace or skip telehealth services may depend on how much it costs. Generally, virtual appointments are less expensive than in-person visits, but this isn't always the case.

Your telehealth savings — or lack thereof — will depend on your health insurance plan. It may be difficult to see a difference if you have the same copayments for both types of appointment. But it's possible you will see more savings with a high-deductible plan. It's well-worth your time to learn more about your options.

Expect to use telehealth more in the future

As technology improves, and insurance companies embrace telehealth services, our out-of-pocket expenses will only continue to go down. If you are open to trying it, speak with your insurance company to see what they will cover. You may be pleasantly surprised by both the cost and convenience.

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Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.