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Treasury Dept. Issues Rules Governing HSAs

The push for health savings accounts (HSAs) continued as managed care plans and employers were given more guidance by the Treasury Department on just what those products may cover. New guidelines, issued March 30, say that the HSAs may be used to cover some preventive services and prescription drugs.

Managed care organizations had been awaiting further guidance on HSAs ever since they became law on Jan. 1 as part of Medicare reform.

Under the HSA program, members and employers may set aside money tax-free, either individually or through joint contributions. HSAs are available to members of health plans who have an annual deductible higher than $1,000 for an individual and $2,000 for a family.

Insurance linked to HSAs requires that consumers pay the deductibles first. However, the new guidelines exempt some preventive care services from that rule. They include obesity treatment, annual physicals, and smoking-cessation programs.

"We want to make it easier for those designing HSAs to comply with the rules and help consumers understand how HSAs can help them meet their health care needs," says Gregory Jenner, acting assistant treasury secretary, who adds that he wants the new guidelines to help "make HSAs available to all consumers as quickly as possible."

Unlike medical savings accounts, HSAs aren't focused on small companies and the self-employed. Anyone may participate: big companies, medium-sized outfits, small firms, and the self-employed.

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