Some need-to-know details about flexible spending arrangements, health reimbursement accounts and health savings accounts

Cafeteria plans can help employees enjoy payroll tax savings for the health expenses they incur. Help employees take full advantage of these plans and the perks they bring with these helpful facts.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs): FSAs allow employees to be reimbursed for certain medical expenses. They are employee-funded, generally through voluntary salary reduction agreements. The funds can roll over, but with limitations.

  • The limit to the amount an employee can withhold before taxes for a flexible spending arrangement is $2,600.1
  • The limit is per employee, so a family with two working spouses can each choose to contribute up to $2,600 to their FSA.1
  • FSAs are known for being a “use it or lose it” plan, but employers can now elect to allow $500 of unused FSA contributions to roll over to the year immediately following, while still allowing employees to contribute the pretax maximum of $2,600 for each plan year. Employers are not required to offer either option. But if they do, the employer must choose whether they will offer the $500 rollover or if they will offer employees a grace period to spend the funds. Employers can only offer one option.2

Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs): HRAs also reimburse employees’ tax-free for qualified medical expenses, but unlike an FSA, HRAs must be funded solely by an employer. The dollars can roll over, but they cannot be credited directly to the employee; they belong to the employer if the employee is terminated or leaves their employment. Additional considerations with HRAs:

  • HRAs must be integrated with a non-HRA group health plan. This means employers can no longer offer active employees a stand-alone HRA or an HRA tied to an individual health plan that is not considered group coverage.
  • Employees and former employees participating in an HRA may not be eligible for premium tax credits while enrolled in the plan, so they must be able to permanently opt out of future HRA reimbursements at least annually.
  • The only exception to these rules are retiree-only HRAs, which are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s mandated insurance market reforms.3

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): An HSA can only be offered to individuals covered by a high deductible health plan (and with no other “first dollar” coverage). Contributions can be made by the employee and/or the employer, and unused funds can be rolled over each year. The funds belong to the employee – even if they are terminated or leave their employment.

  • 2017 HSA limits: The annual limit on deductions for an individual with self-only coverage under a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) is $3,400, and for an individual with family coverage, it is $6,750.4
  • In 2017, a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is defined as having a deductible not less than $1,300 for individual coverage or $2,600 for family coverage and with annual out-ofpocket expenses (deductibles, copayments and other amounts, but not premiums) not exceeding $6,550 for individual coverage or $13,100 for family coverage.4