A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged account that can help you pay for qualified health care expenses, while also reducing your taxable income. You can use an HSA to cover eligible medical, vision, and dental expenses for you, your spouse, and eligible dependents.1
For those with a high deductible health plan (HDHP), investing in an HSA could be a great way to grow your money tax-free and better prepare for the future. Before committing to an HSA, it’s important to understand what’s a qualified expense and what’s not.
In addition to the more common health care expenses — like treatments, emergency room visits, and prescription medications — you may be surprised to learn you can also use your HSA for things like sunscreen, breast pumps, and weight-loss programs.
Read on to learn what types of expenses are covered, which aren’t, and discover qualified expenses you may not have expected.
What expenses are HSA qualified?
To make the most of the tax-free benefits available with an HSA, you’ll need to know what you can use your HSA for. Be sure to check with your HSA provider or review guidelines set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for more detailed lists.
HSAs can be used for large and small qualified medical expenses. You can use your HSA for ongoing medical services and treatments, like chiropractic care, acupuncture, or physical exams. Medical copays, deductibles, and coinsurance can also be covered under an HSA.
Here are some eligible medical expenses:2
- Ambulance services
- Blood tests
- Hearing aids and batteries
- Hospital care
- Laboratory fees
- Medicines prescribed by a doctor
Various dental procedures and services are covered by an HSA. You can use your HSA for routine dental needs, such as cleanings, exams, and X-rays. Even dental surgeries, dentures, and braces are eligible for HSA funding.
Here are some other eligible dental expenses:2
- Crowns and bridges
- Dental plan co-pays
- Dental surgery
- Dental X-rays
Anything from prescription eyeglasses to lens solutions are HSA-qualified. You can also use HSA funds to cover laser/LASIK eye surgery, eye exams, and radial keratotomy.
Here are some other eligible vision expenses:2
- Contact lenses
- Eye drop
- Optometrist fees
- Prescription sunglasses
- Vision plan co-insurance
- Vision plan deductible
Surprising HSA-covered expenses
In addition to medical, dental, and vision, you can also use your HSA to pay for items and services that may not be as easily defined. For example, did you know hand sanitizer, genetic testing, and nutritional counseling are all HSA-qualified expenses?
Here are some other eligible expenses you may not have been aware of:2
- Postpartum care: HSAs can be used to offset some of the costs of welcoming a new baby. For example, you can use an HSA for breastfeeding supplies, such as breast pumps or nursing bras.
- Health-care-related travel: If you have to travel to receive medical care, you can use HSA funds for some of the bills. HSA funds can help cover transportation, lodging, and meal expenses while you travel.
- Family planning: You can use HSA savings to plan for or prevent pregnancy. Birth control, day-after pills, condoms, pregnancy tests, and fertility treatments are all covered with an HSA.
- Wellness and substance abuse treatments: If you’re trying to improve your general health through a program or treatment center, you can typically use HSA funds to help pay for it. For example, you can get reimbursed for medical expenses paid to a treatment center for alcohol or drug abuse. Expenses associated with a smoking cessation program, including the use of nicotine patches or gum, are also reimbursable. And if you’re going to a weight-loss program to treat a medical illness, like heart disease, you can use HSA funds to help cover it.
What can’t you use an HSA for?
It’s important to know which expenses aren’t HSA-qualified. Spending HSA funds on ineligible expenses can result in penalties and tax consequences.
Even if something seems like a medical expense, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s covered under an HSA. For example, nutritional supplements that aren’t prescribed by your doctor are not covered. Athletic club memberships and daily vitamins typically aren’t covered either.
Here are some examples of non-qualified HSA expenses:2
- Babysitting or childcare
- Dance or swim lessons (even if recommended by a doctor)
- Elective cosmetic procedures
- Electrolysis or hair removal
- Funeral costs
- Hair transplants
- Household help (even if recommended by a doctor)
- Maternity clothes
- Personal use items (unless it’s used to prevent or alleviate a disability or illness)
- Suntan lotion (without sunscreen)
- Teeth whitening