Fiserv Intros Service To Expand Health Savings Accounts

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Seeking to combine its experience in financial payments with new Health Savings Accounts (HSA), FISERV has started a full-service health banking program for financial institutions.

FISERV Health Services President Jim Cox said HSAs provide credit unions with a new product and a great opportunity for deposit growth as more Americans become aware of the savings options. FISERV will offer a collection of solutions with regular account reporting that meets all legal filing requirements associated with HSAs, the company said. FISERV presently services 300 financial institutions with 1,500 HSAs started in the past 18 months.

"We believe credit unions have a good opportunity and it's our responsibility to equip them best to educate customers," Cox said.

Congress created HSAs, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2004. HSAs, modeled after Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), allow families with high-deductible health insurance plans to save tax-free money for routine medical fees. A families' insurance plan would be used for major medical expenses, while the cash in their HSA would go toward out-of-pocket costs such as prescriptions, co-payments or special treatments like a CAT scan.

Instead of paying a health insurance company monthly payments, families can deposit up to $5,250 per year for 2005, while individuals are limited to $2,650 per year. Money deposited into HSAs accumulates tax-free until retirement, similar to an IRA. Families or individuals can create an HSA, but must have a high-deductible health plan with a minimum deductible of $2,000 for family coverage or $1,000 for self coverage.

Cox said credit unions and HSAs "go hand in hand" regarding member service and empowerment, while staying competitive in the market place by offering a new product. While CUs now help members find a way to get into a new home, they can now help members create HSAs and manage their medical costs themselves instead of a third party.

"It's very consistent with the credit union approach to its members," Cox said.

Jim Sizemore, senior vice president of FISERV information technology, said HSAs are also similar to flexible spending accounts, but noted money deposited into HSAs is not owned by an employer and can roll over into the next year.

"It's your money. It's your member account," Sizemore said. "It can accumulate until next year."

If an HSA owner changes jobs, the account will travel with the owner to a new location. HSAs also can be used during periods of unemployment to cover health insurance premiums.

Sizemore said FISERV will handle medical health accounting, track deposits and file the appropriate taxes for the CU. After creating an HSA, FISERV sets up a web-based health management account that enables members to track their HSA deposits, withdrawals, money transfers and read updates about health care.

CUJ Resources

For more information about Health Savings Accounts, log onto the U.S. Treasury Department web site at www.treas.gov.

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