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March 2018

Employers, These are the Current Benefits Issues You Need to Know About

Employers, These are the Current Benefits Issues You Need to Know About

3/20/2018

by Chris Byrd

 

We’ve just returned from Capitol Hill, where WEX Health attended the nonprofit Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC) 37th annual conference, March 14-16, to promote choice in benefit solutions. Much of the conversation in D.C. this year was around three major issues which affect tax-advantaged health benefit accounts that are a central element of a Consumer-Directed Health strategy:

 

  1. The Excise Tax on High-cost Health Plans.

Commonly known as the Cadillac Tax, this provision of the Affordable Care Act has been delayed yet again until 2022. Although this is helpful for employers concerned by the implications of this tax – especially those in high-cost states – a delay only defers this issue and does not represent a final resolution.  Given that many employers set their benefit strategies years in advance, 2022 is not terribly far away.  Among the actions employers are already taking or evaluating is curtailing or eliminating Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) from their benefit offerings.  Employee contributions to these accounts are counted toward the computation of whether the employee’s benefit plan exceeds the excise tax threshold.  Efforts continue to repeal the tax entirely, but if full repeal cannot be accomplished, to reform the tax by excluding employee contributions to CDH accounts.

 

  1. Strengthening HSAs.

Numerous bills have been introduced in both chambers of Congress to increase the availability and utility of HSAs to help individuals and families plan for and fund their health care needs.  The focal point of discussion is around the HSA “gold standard” bills – S. 403 and H.R. 1175.  These bills include a broad range of important provisions, including an increase in contribution amounts, allowing Medicare-eligible workers to continue contributing to an HSA, and restoring the tax-advantaged treatment of over-the-counter drugs and medicines.  In addition to these bills, there is increased discussion regarding a proposal to allow HSA-qualified health insurance plans to cover certain chronic-care conditions below the deductible.  This idea actually originated with the employer community and is now gaining traction.

 

  1. Supporting and Enhancing FSAs.

As are an important option for employees, particularly since surveys indicate the vast majority of employers offer traditional health insurance that is not HSA-qualified as one of their options in their benefit plans. H.R. 1204 would raise the limit that an employee may contribute to an FSA from $2,650 to $5,000.  This would benefit individuals and families with high healthcare costs, particularly those dealing with chronic conditions.

 

Based on what we heard in D.C., prospects for near-term action on these issues are somewhat limited.  It is, after all, an election year, and as the calendar advances, the ability to move legislation that isn’t “must pass” becomes more challenging.  In the healthcare arena, the biggest issues are the opioid crisis, stabilizing the individual insurance market, and prescription drug pricing/affordability.  In addition, the administration continues to advance regulatory reform, including supporting innovation and flexibility in plan design, distribution, and state regulation and programs (e.g. Medicaid).  With all this said, however, HSAs also continue to occupy an important place in the administration’s healthcare policy, and so there may be an opportunity to advance provisions that would strengthen these accounts.

 

As we have seen in the past, the healthcare landscape in Washington is highly fluid, so the best advice is to stay tuned for updates and developments as they happen

 


Chris Byrd

Executive Vice President, WEX Health Operations & Corporate Development Officer

Chris Byrd brings more than 25 years of experience in employee benefits and banking to his role at WEX Health. A founder of Evolution Benefits in 2000, Chris played a key role in designing the proprietary architecture for the company’s prepaid benefits card.

Chris oversees the daily execution of WEX Health’s business and leads the company’s operations and service delivery, corporate development, merger and acquisition activity, and legal, industry, and government relations efforts.

He began his career in commercial banking, and prior to 2000, he focused on finance, strategy, and business development for Value Health and two start-up healthcare companies. He joined WEX Health in July 2014.

Chris, who serves on numerous industry boards, is a frequent speaker on emerging trends in financial services and benefits and is active in industry and government relations. He earned a degree in economics from Brown University.  


The IRS Has Lowered the HSA Family Contribution for 2018

New: The IRS Has Lowered the HSA Family Contribution for 2018

03/07/2018

 

On Monday, March 5th the IRS said in a service bulletin that it has recalculated the maximum amount that a family can contribute to a health savings account (HSA) in calendar year 2018, reducing it by $50 to $6,850. It had previously announced the 2018 figure would be increased to $6,900.

 

This change was made, effective immediately, to reflect the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017. The law ties HSA limits and other employee benefits such as health flexible spending accounts (FSA), commuter plans and adoption assistance benefits to the chained consumer price index (chained CPI), reflecting a change in the way it previously calculated cost-of-living increases.

 

The HSA contribution limit change only applies to family-level coverage, leaving the individual contribution limit for HSAs in 2018 at $3,450. FSA limits were also not affected.

 

2018 Contribution and Out-of-Pocket Limits
for Health Savings Accounts and High-Deductible Health Plans

  2018
HSA contribution limit (employer + employee) Self-only: $3,450
Family: $6,850*
HSA catch-up contributions (age 55 or older)* $1,000
HDHP minimum deductibles Self-only: $1,350
Family: $2,700
HDHP maximum out-of-pocket amounts (deductibles, co-payments and other amounts, but not premiums) Self-only: $6,650
Family: $13,300

*IRS announced change on Monday, March 5, to the family HSA contribution limit.

 

Ensure your employees aren’t taxed for excess contributions

Any contribution to a family HSA account over $6,850 in 2018 will be considered an excess contribution, and will be hit by a 6 percent excise tax. To ensure that none of your employees are taxed in this way, you need to be able to identify those who have already contributed the maximum amount into a family account for 2018 (the excess contribution will need to be refunded). There is no grandfathering in for HSA accounts that were fully funded at $6,900 prior to the March 5, 2018 IRS notice.

 

There are two options for those that have already fully funded their family HSA account in 2018 at the previously announced 2018 amount of $6,900:

  • Leave the full amount ($6,900) in the HSA account and include the $50 as other income and pay the penalty
  • Take a distribution for HSA excess contribution for the $50, leaving the HSA balance at the new IRS family maximum of $6,850

 

You should also evaluate your employees’ payroll elections to determine if their contribution amounts need to be adjusted so that they don’t end up exceeding the annual limit.

In its recent bulletin, the IRS additionally defined a high-deductible health plan as a plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,650 for self-only coverage or $13,300 for family coverage. This definition has not changed since its previous announcement.

 

Stay up to date on the latest HSA news by following WEX Health on Twitter @wexhealthinc. And learn more about HSAs with our blog post that tells you everything you need to know about these tax-advantaged accounts.