High deductible health insurance plans can save money for employers and employees, but it can be difficult to get workers to accept what they perceive as higher up front costs. Some employers encourage the use of these high deductible plans by offering to fund a health savings account workers can use to defray those costs and make these health insurance plans more financially appealing.
Before your employer can offer you a health savings account and make contributions to that HSA, you must first have a high deductible health plan in place. Not every health plan your employer offers will qualify as an HDHP. As of 2011, the plan must have a minimum deductible of $1,200 for individual coverage and $2,400 for family coverage. Unless your health plan meets those requirements, you are not permitted to open or add to an HSA.
Employers may make contributions to the health savings accounts established for their employees, although they are not obligated to do so. If employers do contribute to health savings accounts on behalf of their employees, they must make the same contribution for every employee covered by an eligible high deductible health plan and participating in a health savings account. Employees may make their own contributions to their HSAs if they wish.
Any employer contributions to an employee's health savings account must conform to the contribution limits established for such accounts. As of 2011, the total contribution limit for a health savings account is $3,050 for a plan that offers single coverage. For HSA plans that provide family coverage, the 2011 contribution limit is $6,150.
One of the things that sets a health savings account apart from a flexible spending account is that the money rolls over from year to year. If the worker does not use all the money in the health savings account by Dec. 31, that money remains in the account. When the new year arrives, the employer and employee can begin to make additional contributions to the account, and any unused money continues to accumulate from year to year.