Are Health Savings Accounts Governed by ERISA?
With the increasing use of health savings accounts (HSA) and high deductible health plans (HDHP) come questions about their relationship to ERISA. The Employee Benefits Security Administration within the Department of Labor has issued two Field Assistance Bulletins that address the issue. The first one indicates that HSAs will generally not be governed by ERISA: "We would not find that employer contributions to HSAs give rise to an ERISA-covered plan where the establishment of the HSAs is completely voluntary on the part of the employees and the employer does not: (i) limit the ability of eligible individuals to move their funds to another HSA beyond restrictions imposed by the Code; (ii) impose conditions on utilization of HSA funds beyond those permitted under the Code; (iii) make or influence the investment decisions with respect to funds contributed to an HSA; (iv) represent that the HSAs are an employee welfare benefit plan established or maintained by the employer; or (v) receive any payment or compensation in connection with an HSA." On the other hand, HDHPs will likely remain governed by ERISA so long as they are simply an aspect of how an employer designs a group benefit plan. You can read a follow up Field Assistance Bulletin from October of this year that contains some FAQs concerning HSAs and HDHPs and their relationship to ERISA.