Tag Archives: Change in Coverage

Deciding to Use the Last Month Rule for New HSA Coverage

This question was submitted by HSAedge reader Beth. Feel free to submit your question today to evan@hsaedge.com.

I have an employer that is implementing an HSA eligible plan on 4/1/2017. Of course, everyone wants to invoke the “last month rule” but we keep telling them that is not a best practice due to the possible tax implications should they switch plans etc. Can you give some examples of “problems” with someone enrolling 4/1/2017 invoking the last month rule and not remaining covered during the testing period?

That is certainly a good question and applies to many people who begin HSA coverage mid year. As I see it, they have two options in front of them – reduce their contribution pro rata for the months covered, or contribute the full year amount by using the Last Month Rule. The former is safe with no risk of paying taxes and penalties in the following year, while the latter allows you to contribute more in the current year.

Contribute Only for Months Covered to Lower Risk

Let’s be clear on the situation facing your team. With coverage beginning on April 1st 2017, they will have 9 months of HSA eligible coverage for 2017. Stated differently, they are covered by a HSA eligible insurance for 75% (9/12) of 2017. Since they only have partial year coverage, the amount they can safely contribute to their HSA that year is reduced pro rata. In this case, they can contribute 75% of the contribution limit based on their coverage type and age, no strings attached. For 2017, these amounts are:

  • Self only: $3,400 x 0.75 = $2,550
  • Family: $6,750 x 0.75 = $5,062.50
  • if 55+: $1,000 x 0.75 = $750 in addition to above

So they can contribute those amounts, free and clear, and be finished. Making contributions for the months you had HSA eligible coverage means you never have to worry about taxes or penalties relating to the Last Month Rule.

Contribute More Using Last Month Rule

However, they may be aware that there is a provision called the Last Month Rule that states that if they have HSA eligible insurance on December 1st of a year, that they can contribute the full year contribution limit. Assuming they maintain HSA eligible coverage until December, this election allows them to contribute 100% of the $3,400 or $6,750, instead of just 75%. However, what they may not know is there is a catch. By taking advantage of the Last Month Rule, they are bound by the terms of the Testing Period. This basically states that they need to maintain HSA coverage for the following 12 months, or the amount they contributed above their calculated (75%) amount will be taxed and penalized.

People fail the Testing Period more often than you think, and it causes tax problems when they go to file Form 8889. It is difficult to predict over a year in advance what your insurance situation will be. Some events are not foreseeable. Other people don’t even know what the Testing Period is! For example, here are some common reasons people’s insurance changes and they fail the Testing Period:

  • Change jobs and get new insurance
  • Lose job and lose insurance
  • Change to a non HSA-eligible plan
  • Go onto spouse’s insurance
  • Change to state health insurance (Obamacare)
  • Go onto Medicare
  • Start taking Social Security

Any of the above will likely cause you to fail the Testing Period and owe taxes and penalties.

Calculating Taxes and Penalties for Failing the Last Month Rule

If you fail the Testing Period, you will have to go back and do a bunch of work for Form 8889. The IRS will have you compare the amount you contributed ($3,400 or $6,750) to the amount you could have contributed without the Last Month Rule ($2,550 or $5,062.50). The difference will be added to your taxable income for the current year and assessed a 10% penalty.

Here are the tax and penalty calculations for our previous examples. Assume you had 9 months of coverage and used the Last Month Rule to contribute the full 2017 contribution limit:

  • Self only: $3,400 – $2,550 = $850 added to income (taxed); $85 penalty
  • Family: $6,750 – $5,062.50 = $1,687.50 added to income (taxed), $168.75 penalty
  • if 55+: $1,000 – $750 = $250 added to income (taxed); $25 penalty in addition to above

As you can see, failing the Testing Period means writing Uncle Sam a check for taxes and penalties. For some people, this is a bad bet because they change insurance frequently, or the taxes / penalties / headache aren’t worth the additional risk. They contribute a little less this year but no big deal. For others, this is a good risk because they have stable insurance. It allows them to contribute more to their HSA and reduce current year taxes. There is no “right” answer and it is up to the individual HSA holder to decide.

Medicare Part A Retroactive Coverage and HSA’s

Medicare Part A is a government administered health insurance plan generally for people aged 65 and older. It is a form of hospital insurance that covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facilities, and other types of health care services. The general assumption is that Health Savings Account holders can maintain their HSA until they begin Medicare, and then easily hop onto Medicare Part A. As you will see, this may not be so, as there are some catches with Medicare Part A that affect your HSA eligibility based on your age and enrollment date.

People over the age of 65 do not have to sign up for Medicare; they can remain on a personal insurance plan (such as an HSA) as long as they want. However, once you elect to being coverage, or begin receiving Social Security, you are enrolled in Medicare Part A. While this not only ends your HSA eligibility (see next section), it may affect your HSA eligibility in previous months. For those who begin Part A coverage after they have turned 65, there is a clause that retroactively applies Medicare coverage. It states that your coverage start date actually begins up to 6 months prior to your actual enrollment date. From the Medicare.gov website:

If you sign up within 6 months of your (upcoming) 65th birthday, you coverage will start at one of these times:
1) The first day of the month you turn 65
2) The month before you turn 65 (if your birthday is on the 1st of the month
After that, you’re coverage will go back (retroactively) 6 months from when you sign up.

It is that last clause that can really affect HSA holders. It states that if you sign up for Medicare Part A after you turn 65, the coverage will retroactively be applied up to 6 months into the past. While this added “benefit” may be great and help cover some prior costs, it begs the question: what if I had an HSA during those 6 months of retroactive Medicare coverage?

Medicare Part A Affects HSA Eligibility

The short answer to the above question is “nothing good”. First things first, we need to make clear the requirements for being able to contribute to a Health Savings Account. Note that these requirements are for new contributions only; once you successfully contribute to an HSA, the funds they are yours forever. However the key word in that sentence is “successfully”, as you must be HSA eligible for the contribution to be valid. Per IRS Publication 969, HSA eligibility requires:

  1. You are covered by a high deductible health plan
  2. You have no other health coverage (few exceptions)
  3. You aren’t enrolled in Medicare
  4. You can’t be claimed as a dependent

Obviously, points 2 and 3 stick out like a sore thumb. In essence, you can be following the rules as an HSA eligible individual, and 6 months after the fact be retroactively disqualified (made HSA ineligible) due to Medicare Part A. If you are familiar at all with how HSA tax Form 8889 works, you know that this can pose some serious risks to your financial well being.

An HSA + Medicare Part A Nightmare Example

Here’s an example of how bad this can go. Paul turns 65 and becomes eligible for Medicare and Social Security but chooses to keep his day job as a bass player and to maintain his HSA eligible family insurance. Being in a lucrative field, Paul contributes the maximum to his family coverage Health Savings Account each year. In April of 2016, Paul chose to make a qualified funding distribution from his IRA to contribute the maximum to his HSA.

On May 1st, 2017, Paul plays the last show of his final farewell tour and decides to officially retire. He takes some of the proceeds from the show and contributes 4 months worth of a contribution to his HSA for 2017. No longer working, Social Security seems like a good deal so he signs up to start receiving benefits. This also enrolls him in Medicare Part A, which seems like free government sponsored medical care. Paul relaxes in his Palm Springs desert home and enjoys his retirement.

The next year, Paul gets a call from his tax accountant telling him his HSA Form 8889 is a mess and he may owe penalties and taxes. Because Paul was 67 when he signed up for Medicare Part A on May 1st, 2017, the coverage retroactively applied 6 months prior to November 1st, 2016. This means that he was not HSA eligible from November 2016 – April 2017. His accountant informs him that as a result, Paul has over contributed to his HSA for the 4 months in 2017 which will have to be removed. Even worse, his accountant tells him that the qualified funding distribution he made form his IRA in 2016 has been disqualified due to something called a Testing Period – Medicare made him ineligible for HSA contributions for 2017. That money is being taxed and penalized as well. Paul woefully reviews his financial statements and is upset as he thought he was everything by the book. Thinking it over, he considers booking a few reunion shows with his band mates back in LA.

How to Manage your HSA with Medicare Part A

Given the fact that Medicare Part A can retroactively disqualify you from being HSA eligible, it is best to prepare for such an event and plan accordingly. This involves a combination of 1) knowing if you are at risk for retroactive coverage and 2) planning your preceding and current HSA actions appropriately. As such, we recommend the following:

Determine when you will use Medicare Part A

If you are in your 60’s, you should be thinking about when you will sign up for Medicare Part A coverage, keeping in mind that this is also triggered by beginning Social Security benefits. If this occurs when you are age 65 and 1/2 or older, you are in the danger zone of having retroactive coverage applied. If this is the case, you will want to work backwards 6 months to plan your HSA accordingly. Will the 6 months fall within 1 tax year? Or is it possible that the 6 months will straddle 2 different tax years? By my count, the latter could affect HSA decisions you make up to 18 months in advance of enrollment!

Recalculate and Reduce HSA Contributions

If Medicare Part A applies retroactive coverage and makes you HSA ineligible for those months, you need to reduce your HSA contributions for that time frame. Remember, you are not HSA eligible if you are on Medicare, and thus cannot contribute to your HSA during those months. Instead you need to make a calculate your contribution limit for partial year coverage. For example, if you are 66 years old and have HSA eligible insurance for all of 2017, but then enroll in Medicare in December, you really were only HSA eligible for 5 of those months (since the final 6 months will have Medicare coverage). As a result, you can only contribute 5/12 of your HSA contribution maximum for that year. Many people get tripped up by contributing the full year amount early in the year, which leads to excess contributions once Medicare hits. Save yourself the headache and calculate your “true” maximum contribution early on and conservatively contribute that amount, knowing that you have until tax day to make prior year contributions.

Avoid the Last Month Rule and Qualified Funding Distributions

Retroactive Medicare Part A coverage wrecks the most havoc on HSA contributions that contain a Testing Period. These include the use of the Last Month Rule (to contribute more than normal in a partial coverage year) or the Qualified Funding Distribution (contribute to your HSA from an IRA). Both of these contributions require that you maintain HSA coverage for a given amount of time known as the Testing Period (up to 1 year). The risk is that do everything right and maintain HSA eligible coverage through the Testing Period, but then Medicare comes in and applies retroactive coverage. This in fact fails you for the entire Testing Period if you have Medicare coverage for even 1 month of it. And the worst part is that the penalties for this are fairly severe. They involve walking back your contribution amount, adding it to income, and applying a tax on top of it. You will want to carefully consider the timing of these types of contributions if you are over 65 and considering Social Security or Medicare Part A enrollment.


Note: if you need help on Form 8889 with partial year coverage, excess contributions, last month rule, or qualified funding distributions, please consider using my service EasyForm8889.com to complete Form 8889. It asks simple questions and is fast and painless, no matter how complicated your HSA situation may be.

EasyForm8889.com - complete HSA Form 8889 in 10 minutes!

How to File Form 8889 For Your Old HSA Funds When You No Longer Have HSA Coverage

This was a reader question submitted by HSA Edge reader Beata. If you have a question get in touch and we’ll try to help. Email us at evan@hsaedge.com any time.

I was no longer under the High Deductible Plan with my new employer in 2017, however I had some left over funds in my HSA account from my previous employer. No contributions were made in 2016.

I used up all the funds in 2016 for qualified medical expenses. Do I skip parts I and III on the form and just fill out part II about the distributions?


This is a pretty common scenario that occurs as life goes by and people change insurance coverage. Frequently, people who previously had and contributed to an HSA eventually change coverage to a non-HSA eligible plan, due to a job change, insurance change, or life event. One of the great benefits of Health Savings Accounts is that the money remains yours forever, even if your coverage changes. This contrasts with other health plans like FSA’s where there is a “use it or lose it” clause on the plan, forcing you to predetermine a contribution amount and spend it in the year. Thus, the good news is you still have your HSA funds to spend on qualified medical expenses, but how do you file HSA tax Form 8889?

If You Spent Funds, You Need to File Form 8889

First things first, you definitely need to file Form 8889 if this situation applies to you. Even if you had the HSA plan 10 years ago, and are no longer contributing to the account, as long as you are spending funds from the HSA the government wants to know about it. The hard and fast rule is if money is going into or out of your Health Savings Account, you need to file Form 8889 for the tax year in which that spending occurred. This form is due by your tax filing deadline, and can be extended if extension is filed. It will be best just to file it with your regular taxes.

Note that if you don’t contribute to or withdraw from an HSA in a given year, you likely do not need to file Form 8889 for that year.

What follows is a summary discussion of filing Form 8889 if you no longer have HSA coverage but spent old HSA funds this year. More detailed information can be found about How to File Form 8889.


Part I – Contributions

Form 8889 consists of 3 parts, and the first one should be fairly straightforward. It’s main focus is determining your contribution limit and the amount you (and others) contributed during the year. Since the topic of this post is that you no longer have HSA coverage (but have funds in an HSA account), you will neither have 1) a contribution limit or 2) (allowable) HSA contributions. As such, this section will be all $0’s, which logically follows that your deductible amount (Line 13) will also be $0 and flow over as such to Form 1040.

Part II – Distributions

The second part of Form 8889 details the funds that exited your HSA, and this is where you will have to do some work. Line 14a and 15 are the main tasks here, and they are asking “How much exited your HSA” and, “How much did you spend on Qualified Medical Expenses?”. Ideally, both of these amounts should be the same: any money I withdraw from my HSA should be spent appropriately. If that is the case, you will face no taxes and penalties, but as you can see in subsequent lines 16 and 17b, any delta between those numbers will be taxed and penalized.

This 2016 Form 8889 was prepared by EasyForm8889.com.


Part III – Taxes & Penalties

Part 3 of Form 8889 involves a calculation of various taxes and penalties you might owe. These can arise from failure to comply with the Testing Periods set forth in the Last Month Rule and Qualified Funding Distributions. Hopefully, these do not apply to you if you are simply spending remaining funds from an old HSA. If so, this section will be blank and you can just add $0’s there as well.

However, if you recently ended insurance and in the prior year 1) utilized the Last Month Rule to increase your contribution or 2) utilized a Qualified Funding Distribution from a IRA/Roth IRA, you could be in trouble. Both of these contain a Testing Period that stipulates continued HSA eligibility conditional with their use, in an effort to prevent tax abuse. If you fail to maintain coverage for the specific Testing Period, your contribution is considered “excessive” and will be taxed and penalized for the tax year in question. It is best to fully understand these rules before engaging them, and if you are facing a penalty, thoroughly review how they are calculated or use a service like EasyForm8889.com.