HSA Proposal Could Benefit Upper-Income People
A proposal from President Bush to expand health savings accounts might "prove a tax-free boon for the nation's rich," the Bloomberg/Winston-Salem Journal reports. Both supporters and opponents of the proposal have said that the "enhanced HSAs offer unprecedented tax advantages and may become more attractive than 401(k)s or individual retirement accounts as a way for the richest and healthiest Americans to build savings," according to Bloomberg/Journal.
The proposal would increase the maximum contribution to HSAs and offer a tax credit for account holders to offset payroll taxes, as well as allow tax-free earnings growth and tax-free withdrawals for out-of-pocket medical expenses. According to Bloomberg/Journal, opponents maintain that the proposal "favors the wealthy because they are more likely to have the disposable income to contribute the maximum amount" and "favors the healthy because they have fewer out-of-pocket medical expenses that would deplete the account."
Steven Bankler, a certified public accountant, said, "The wealthier, healthier people think it's very advantageous. To them, it's a savings account. But for a client with diabetes, his out-of-pocket medical costs are going to be the maximum. There is really no savings."
However, according to supporters, the proposal would ensure that individuals who purchase their own health insurance and those who receive coverage through their employers are taxed equally.
John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, said, "This isn't just a savings account. It's self-insurance for health care" (Bloomberg/Winston-Salem Journal, 3/3).
In related news, The Hill on Wednesday examined how AARP likely will "stay on the sidelines during the upcoming debate" on the Bush proposal to expand HSAs.
David Certner, director of federal affairs for AARP, said the organization opposes the proposal but will not launch a campaign against the plan.
According to The Hill, AARP does not consider the proposal a "direct threat" to Medicare because the plan would not use Medicare funds or implement HSAs in the program (Young, The Hill, 3/1).