Compliance Questions -HSAs and Health FSAs - Eligibility Issues
August 23, 2012
One of my employees just enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan ("HDHP") and is now eligible to contribute to a Health Savings Account ("HSA"). A few months ago, his spouse enrolled in a general- purpose Health Flexible Spending Account ("Health FSA"). She enrolled the whole family, including her spouse. If the spouse never submits claims for her husband, is he still eligible to contribute to an HSA?
Individuals who are covered by traditional, general-purpose Health FSA are not eligible for HSA contributions. This rule applies whether the individual is the participant in the Health FSA or simply someone whose expenses can be reimbursed-both are considered "covered." Thus, an employee's spouse will not be eligible for HSA contributions if the spouse's qualified medical expenses can be paid or reimbursed under the general purpose Health FSA in which the employee participates, as provided in Revenue Ruling 2004-45 and IRS Notice 2005-86. Nothing in the guidance limits this principle to spouses, so adult children and other individuals (e.g., domestic partners) who have HDHP coverage-and thus might otherwise be able to make contributions to their own HSAs-will not be eligible to make HSA contributions if they are also covered by a family member's general-purpose Health FSA.
A family member's eligibility may be preserved if the Health FSA excludes him or her from coverage. But at the present time, it is unusual for a Health FSA to restrict coverage, for example, solely to the covered employee or solely to the covered employee and children (but not the spouse). Most of these arrangements allow benefits for any eligible tax dependent. Plan documents and administrative procedures would need to be redesigned in order to facilitate such an "employee-only" or "employee-plus-children (but not spouse)" coverage option. It is not sufficient for an individual to simply promise not to request reimbursement (even if the promise is kept and no claims are ever submitted).
In general, an individual who is covered by a general-purpose Health FSA will be ineligible for HSA contributions for the individual's entire period of coverage under the Health FSA -even after the individual has completely exhausted his or her Health FSA.
Although an individual generally will not be eligible to contribute to an HSA for the entire period of coverage under a general-purpose Health FSA even if the Health FSA account balance has been exhausted, an individual with a $0 balance at plan year-end under a general-purpose Health FSA with a grace period can disregard that Health FSA coverage and be HSA-eligible during the grace period, as provided in IRS Notice 2007-22. This rule requires that the $0 balance be determined on a cash basis and taking into account the uniform coverage rule. Cash basis means the balance as of the relevant date, without taking into account expenses that have not been reimbursed as of that date. Thus, pending claims, claims submitted, claims received, or claims under review that have not been paid as of a date are not taken into account.
Larry Grudzien, Attorney at Law | 708 South Kenilworth Ave. | Oak Park | IL | 60304