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April 12, 2004
DOL Issues Enforcement Guidance on HSAs
Hoping to facilitate the adoption of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) by employers, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) to its investigators that provides them--and everyone else--with guidance on enforcing the new rules governing HSAs.

HSAs, created by the Medicare Modernization Act signed by President Bush on Dec. 8, 2003, are designed to help individuals pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified health expenses on a tax-free basis. To be eligible for an HSA, an individual must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).

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The DOL acknowledges that since enactment, "a number of questions" have been raised concerning whether HSAs constitute employee welfare benefit plans governed by Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

The guidance makes clear that while private-sector employer-sponsored HDHPs are group health plans subject to ERISA's reporting, disclosure, fiduciary responsibility and other requirements, HSAs generally will not constitute ERISA-covered employee benefit plans.

The guidance also clarifies that an employer can make contributions to the HSA of an eligible individual without being considered to have established or maintained the HSA as an ERISA-covered plan, provided that the employer's involvement with the HSA is limited.

The FAB is part of the department's ongoing compliance assistance program to help employers, plan officials and service providers and other comply with ERISA. It's available on the Web page of the DOL agency responsible for overseeing HSAs, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), at

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