What are the differences between HSA, HRA and FSA?


The rise of “consumer-directed” health care, where the consumer (participant) is responsible for managing the way they spend money on their health care costs, has led to the use of various types of health care spending accounts. Each account is used to pay for medical expenses, however the way it can be used, depends on the type of account established.

3 types of consumer-directed health care accounts:

    • Health Spending Account (HSA) – requires High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)
    • Flexible Spending Account (FSA) – does not require HDHP
    • Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) – often tied to a HDHP, but no requirement that they must be

The contribution limits for the HSA ($3,350 single/$6,750 family in 2016, $3,400/$6,750 in 2017) and health FSA ($2,550 in 2016) are set annually by the federal government. There is no limit on the contribution amount to an HRA, however, HRAs must be funded solely by employers.

Here is a helpful chart to understand the differences between and the ways to use a health savings account (HSA), health care flexible spending account (FSA) and health reimbursement account (HRA).




Health Savings Account (HSA) Contribution Rules

Legislative BriefMany employers offer high deductible health plans (HDHPs) to control premium costs and pair this coverage with health savings accounts (HSAs) to help employees with their health care expenses.

An HSA is a tax-favored trust or account that can be contributed to by, or on behalf of, an eligible individual for the purpose of paying qualified medical expenses. For example, individuals can use their HSAs to pay for expenses covered under their HDHPs until their deductibles have been met, or they can use their HSAs to pay for qualified medical expenses not covered by their HDHPs, such as dental or vision expenses.

HSAs provide a triple tax advantage—contributions, investment earnings and amounts distributed for qualified medical expenses are all exempt from federal income tax, Social Security/Medicare tax and most state income taxes. Due to an HSA’s potential tax savings, federal tax law includes strict rules for HSA contributions.

Read this HSA Contribution Rules legislative brief to learn who can contribute, how much can be contributed and more.

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