QUESTION: How does the annual limit on health FSA salary reductions apply when employees join our company midyear and elect to participate in our health FSA? Does a reduced limit apply to new employees who were participating in their former employers’ health FSAs earlier in the year?
ANSWER: In general, and unless the plan provides otherwise, employees hired midyear may elect to make salary reductions of up to the annual limit, just like employees who are employed for the full plan year. (The limit is indexed for inflation—for $2023 it is $3,050.) Employees who participate in more than one employer’s health FSA during a plan year may make salary reductions of up to the annual limit under each employer’s health FSA unless the employers are treated as a single employer under the Code’s controlled group or affiliated service group rules. (These rules treat two or more employers as a single employer if there is sufficient common ownership or a combination of joint ownership and common activity.) Thus, your company need not apply a reduced limit to a midyear hire who was participating in an unrelated employer’s health FSA before joining your company. Likewise, an employee who works for your company and another unrelated employer at the same time could make salary reductions of up to the annual limit under your company’s health FSA and any health FSA sponsored by the other employer. But if your company and the other employer are members of a controlled group or affiliated service group, then a single limit applies, and the employee’s salary reductions to the two health FSAs must be aggregated.
Of course, employees should minimize their risk of loss by basing their elections on a careful estimate of the eligible medical expenses they expect to incur during their period of coverage. (Grace periods and carryovers are plan design choices employers may make that can also minimize risk of loss for employees.) Employers, too, may wish to minimize their risk of loss by limiting annual health FSA salary reductions to an amount lower than the limit. Note that nonelective employer contributions to a health FSA (e.g., matching or seed contributions, or flex credits) generally do not count toward the limit. However, if employees may elect to receive the employer contributions in cash or as a taxable benefit, then the contributions will be treated as salary reductions and will count toward the limit if contributed to the health FSA.
ORLANDO, Florida – EBenefitsHub is pleased to announce its addition of NueSynergy as an Exclusive National Core Partner. “We are excited to include the fully integrated suite of administration services assembled by Josh Collins, President, and the rest of the NueSynergy team over the past 27 years,” said EBenefitsHub Founder and CEO, Nick Gregory, ChWE. “NueSynergy has earned respect for its industry-leading service, innovative technology, and excellence in providing full-service administration of consumer-driven and traditional account-based plans among other solutions.”:
Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements, Health Savings Accounts, Lifestyle Spending Accounts, SpouseSaver Incentive Accounts, COBRAcare+ Administration, Premium Only Plans, Combined Billing, Direct Billing, and Private Label Solutions.
“NueSynergy continues to expand its national presence by offering a wide variety of forward-thinking, employer-centric products and services,” said Josh Collins, president of NueSynergy. “It’s important for us to work alongside an elite and diverse group of reputable companies to build solutions and long-term relationships for our mutual clients.”
With this announcement, NueSynergy joins a collection of exclusive, best-of-breed CorePartner organizations to provide services and products to BenefitsPros across the country. The result is the fusion of advanced knowledge, experience, services, technology, and products to create a synchronized hub for BenefitsPros and their business clients.
“We have engineered a modernized suite of snap-on digital solutions coupled with an arsenal of resources necessary for employee benefits providers to prevail within today’s competitively complex employee benefits landscape,” said Nick Gregory. “BenefitsPros can design and build their digital benefits hub . . . as they wish.
“With the help of NueSynergy and our other CorePartners, BenefitsPros can embrace the digital revolution, bridging the gaps while cutting away the bad plumbing of detached digital and manual processes . . . their way. They can neutralize competitors, expand client offerings, harvest more clients, and future-proof success. In a sea of sameness, BenefitsPros can brand, position, and differentiate to create an unfair advantage.”
NueSynergy, Inc., a privately held company, is one of the nation’s fastest growing employee benefits and billing administrators in the country. Headquartered in Leawood, Kansas, NueSynergy also has locations in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Rzeszów, Poland.
NueSynergy offers a fully integrated suite of administration services, which include Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Lifestyle Savings Account (LSA), and COBRAcare+ administration as well as SpouseSaver Incentive Account, Combined Billing, Direct Billing, and Specialty Solutions. For more information, visit www.NueSynergy.com.
EBenefitsHub has engineered a modernized suite of snap-on digital solutions synchronized within its holistic EBHub Dashboard and “white label” All-In-One MobileFirst App. The EBHub “ecosystem” is coupled with an arsenal of resources necessary for benefits professionals to prevail within today’s competitively complex benefits landscape. BenefitsPros can design/build their digital benefits hubs . . . on their terms. With the help of EBHub CorePartners, BenefitsPros can embrace the digital revolution; bridging the gaps while cutting away the bad plumbing of detached digital and manual processes.
They can neutralize competitors, expand client offerings, harvest more clients and future-proof success. In a sea of sameness, BenefitsPros can brand, position and differentiate to create an unfair advantage. The result is seamlessly harmonized employee benefits, engagement and communications, merged into a powerfully holistic platform for BenefitsPros and their clients:
QUESTION: Next year, we plan to amend our company’s cafeteria plan to add a health FSA under which participants elect a coverage amount for the year and pay for it with pre-tax salary reductions. There will be no employer contributions, so participants’ health FSA salary reductions will equal the elected annual coverage amount. The health FSA will be offered to all employees who are eligible for coverage under our major medical, dental, and vision plans. We know that these other plans must offer continuation coverage under COBRA, but will our health FSA also be subject to COBRA?
ANSWER: Unless maintained by a church, the federal government, or a small employer (all employers maintaining the plan must have employed fewer than 20 employees on a typical business day during the preceding calendar year), health FSAs must offer COBRA coverage to all qualified beneficiaries who lose coverage due to a qualifying event and must provide all required COBRA notices. But health FSAs that meet the following three conditions are permitted to provide COBRA coverage on a more limited basis than other group health plans:
Maximum Benefit Condition. The maximum benefit payable under the health FSA during a year to any participant cannot exceed two times the participant’s salary reduction election under the health FSA for the year or, if greater, the salary reduction election plus $500. Your health FSA will satisfy this condition because the annual coverage amount equals the annual salary reduction election.
Availability Condition. Other group health coverage must be available to health FSA participants for the year due to their employment. The other group health coverage must be “major medical” or other coverage that is not limited to excepted benefits (e.g., limited-scope dental or vision coverage). Since all employees eligible for the health FSA will also be eligible for your company’s major medical plan (and assuming that the entry dates for both plans are the same), this condition will be satisfied by plan design.
COBRA Premium Condition. The maximum premium that may be charged for a year of COBRA coverage under the health FSA must equal or exceed the maximum benefit available under the health FSA for the year. Health FSAs funded entirely with participant contributions generally meet this condition because COBRA premiums must be calculated based on the cost to the plan of providing coverage, and the cost to the plan will generally equal the elected annual coverage amount because employees tend to incur claims nearly equal to their elected coverage amounts.
Most, if not all, health FSAs will qualify for the special limited COBRA obligation, and those that do may limit COBRA coverage in two ways: (1) the maximum COBRA coverage period may terminate at the end of the year in which the qualifying event occurs; and (2) the health FSA is not required to offer COBRA coverage to qualified beneficiaries whose accounts are “overspent” as of the date of the qualifying event. An individual’s account is overspent if the remaining annual limit (the difference between the annual election amount and the reimbursable claims submitted before the date of the qualifying event) is less than or equal to the COBRA premiums that would be required for the remainder of the year.
The IRS has issued FAQs that explain when certain costs related to nutrition, wellness, and general health are medical expenses under Code § 213 that may be paid or reimbursed under a health FSA, HSA, or HRA. As background, Code § 213 defines medical care as amounts paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body. The FAQs explain that medical expenses must be primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental disability or illness, and do not include expenses that are merely beneficial to general health.
The FAQs confirm that the costs of dental, eye, and physical exams are medical expenses that can be paid or reimbursed by a health FSA, HSA, or HRA because these exams diagnose whether a disease or illness is present. The costs of smoking cessation programs and programs that treat drug-related substance use or alcohol use disorders are also medical expenses because they treat a disease. For the cost of therapy to be a medical expense, the therapy must treat a disease—thus, amounts paid for therapy to treat a diagnosed mental illness are medical expenses, while amounts paid for marital counseling are not. Likewise, the costs of nutritional counseling and weight-loss programs are medical expenses only if the counseling or program treats a specific disease diagnosed by a physician (e.g., obesity or diabetes); otherwise, these costs are not medical expenses. The cost of a gym membership is a medical expense only if the membership was purchased for the sole purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body (e.g., a prescribed plan for physical therapy to treat an injury) or treating a specific disease diagnosed by a physician (e.g., obesity or heart disease). However, the cost of exercise for the improvement of general health is not a medical expense, even if recommended by a doctor.
The FAQs also explain the circumstances under which the cost of food or beverages purchased for weight loss or other health reasons will qualify as medical expenses, and that the cost of non-prescription drugs can be paid or reimbursed by a health FSA, HSA, or HRA even though these items (except for insulin) are not deductible under Code § 213. The FAQs confirm that the cost of nutritional supplements is not a medical expense unless the supplements are recommended by a medical practitioner as treatment for a specific medical condition diagnosed by a physician.
QUESTION: For 2023, an employee elected $2,400 of health FSA coverage under our calendar-year cafeteria plan, which is funded solely through employee salary reductions and does not provide for carryovers or include a grace period. The employee has already incurred medical expenses equal to this amount in 2023 and wants to be reimbursed for the expenses now, even though she has only made health FSA salary reductions of $400 to date. Do we have to reimburse all of these expenses right away, or can we limit reimbursements to the amount our employee has already contributed and ask her to resubmit the remaining expenses as additional contributions are made?
ANSWER: Your employee must be reimbursed for all of her expenses now, assuming that the expenses are otherwise eligible for reimbursement (e.g., they are for medical care incurred during the current period of coverage, and appropriate substantiation has been provided). That’s because IRS requirements for health FSAs include a “uniform coverage” rule under which the maximum amount of reimbursement must be available at all times during the plan year (or other period of coverage), reduced only for any prior reimbursements for the same period. Reimbursement is deemed “available” under the uniform coverage rule if claims are paid at least monthly, or when an employee’s submitted claims reach a reasonable plan minimum (e.g., $50). Thus, reimbursements cannot be restricted to the amount of the employee’s contributions.
The uniform coverage rule also prohibits accelerating an employee’s salary reductions based on health FSA claims submitted or paid. Note that the uniform coverage rule does not apply to DCAPs, so reimbursements under a DCAP can be limited to the amount that has been contributed, less expenses already reimbursed.