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HSA Users: Important Things to Remember

When thinking about starting or using a Health Savings Account (HSA), there are several important things to remember and consider. The following advice will help you stay organized and gain the best use from your HSA.

* Users are not allowed to reimburse expenses incurred before the start date of the HSA. For example, if a person sets up an HSA on April 1st, they can not reimburse expenses paid in March. The critical date to keep in mind is when the HSA account itself was established. It does not matter when the related insurance plan became effective or when the HSA is fully funded.

* People should shop around for an HSA. They should not just go with the first provider that offers an account. It is important to consider the different HSA providers' fees—monthly or annual—whether there is a cost to use a debit card associated with the account, etc. Since one of the purposes of an HSA is to save money over time, it is in the person's best interest to research expenses ahead of time.

* Participants must always keep any qualified health care expense receipts. It is very important to keep accurate records of expenses reimbursed from the HSA. Keep them organized in folders, so that they are easily accessible if a question arises down the road about why a particular expense was paid out of the account.

* There is no set period for when an expense must be reimbursed out of an HSA. Some people choose to use their HSA like a savings account where they continue to pay eligible expenses out of their pocket, while letting the HSA grow in interest, and then reimburse themselves at a later time down the road.

* Be a smart shopper with eligible expenses. This includes the use of generic medications to save money on the amount that will be reimbursed from the HSA. Many insurance plans offer a mail-order prescription plan that can be used to save money on regular, monthly maintenance medications. The plans often offer free shipping and discounts, such as two or three months of the medication for a single co-pay. Websites like DestinationRx ( can be used to locate generic medications that are matches for a brand name one and even allow a registered user to view pricing for their medications at local pharmacies. Other sites such as Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs ( can also be used to research appropriate generic medications based on a search by condition or brand name medication name.

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