The Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service released new guidance that is “designed to expand the use of income annuities in 401(k) plans.”
By Cyril Tuohy
A new website, www.hsasearch.com, aimed at consumers and advisors in the market for a health savings account (HSA), allows buyers to do some comparison shopping among more than a hundred institutions offering HSAs.
Banks listed on the site range from retail giants Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase Bank, US Bank and Wells Fargo Bank, to dozens of small credit unions to specialty HSA banks that offer brokerage accounts through a partnership with broker/dealers.
The site reorders listings based on provider, state, monthly maintenance fee, investment options and overall user ratings.
Eric Remjeske, co-founder and chief executive officer of registered investment advisor (RIA) Devenir Group, which owns the site, said the website provides a “great place for agents to go” if they don’t want to slog from one institution’s website to another to compare fees and interest rates buried in the fine print.
Some institutions charge a monthly account maintenance fee, while others levy an investment account fee. The threshold above which HSA accountholders are eligible to invest often ranges from $1,000 to $2,500, according to the website.
With more than 2,200 banks and credit unions around the country offering HSA accounts, the number of institutions listed on the website represents a fraction of the marketplace, but banks and credit unions are joining the site every month.
Over the past decade HSAs, authorized by Congress in 2003, have become popular as more employers offer the accounts to employees as another option to fund health care expenses.
At the end of last year, there were 10.7 million HSA accounts holding more than $19.3 billion in assets, an increase of 25 percent over 2012, according to the Year-End 2013 Devenir HSA Market Survey.
HSAs have been called the health care industry’s equivalent of the 401(k).
HSA accountholders can sweep investment earnings into the cash portion of the account. Withdrawals are used to pay for medical expenses. Account assets are owned entirely by employees, who take assets with them when they leave their employer.
Health care finance and employee benefits experts say HSAs are more effective at changing health care utilization behavior among consumers than are reimbursement accounts, as employees own the assets in their HSAs.
Compared with a reimbursement model, employees with “skin in the game” are more likely to watch their health care spending.
Among the four employer-sponsored health savings accounts sanctioned by the Internal Revenue Service — HSAs, Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs), Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) - only the HSA offers the ability to invest.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at email@example.com.
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