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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Here we are, smack-dab in the middle of our nation's new annual healthcare tradition...Open Enrollment Season!  This is the tiny window every American has each year (outside of a "life-changing event") to either renew their existing health insurance policy (if it still exists), or jump ship to a different policy or insurance carrier altogether.

What many Idahoans are quickly discovering, is that the average health insurance premium increase for 2017 is 24%.  24%!!  So the exact same thing you had last year, whether you used it or not, has now increased in cost by almost a quarter.  Unless you qualify for an income-based Federal subsidy through the exchange, insurance premiums were already so high that most of us would consider them in the same breath as a mortgage payment.  Speaking of a mortage payment, imagine getting a letter from your lender that said, "Due to the new Federal Affordable Mortgage Act, your mortgage is now going up 24% this year".  Nobody would stand for that, you would think.  Yet somehow we are all being led to believe this new annual tradition of health insurance hikes is not only both acceptable and justified, it is the new norm we must live with (and budget for!).

As if that wasn't bad enough, those increases are compound and happen annually.  So your policy that was $800/month in 2014 saw an increase of 20%, making it $960 in 2015.  Then in 2016 it went up 27% from $960 to $1,220.  Thankfully you got a "reprieve" for 2017, where it only went up an average of 24% from $1,220 to a staggering $1,512 for the same thing you paid $800 for, less than 3 years ago.  That monthly payment has basically doubled.  Forget the paltry mortgage payment reference I made above.  We're talking more like a second vacation home in Maui.  And seriously, forget the mortgage payment.  If you have health insurance premiums like that you can probably forget paying the mortgage, because good luck affording one.

What Can Be Done?

Unfortunately, there's nothing any of us here can do about the health insurance rate hikes.  That is a complicated and politically-driven quagmire that will have to be worked out through Washington DC.  But what we as Idahoans can do, is take advantage of the incredible benefit we have been given by the Idaho State Legislature to help us pay these outrageous costs.  We can deduct them, with an Idaho Medical Savings Account!

For the uninitiated, an Idaho MSA is a simple bank account anyone who files an income tax return in Idaho can open.  Every dollar you put into the account reduces your taxable income dollar for dollar, and whatever you don't spend each year just rolls over!  At this point you may be wondering, "What can I spend the tax-free money on"?  Great question.  The short answer is eligible medical expenses, but the main idea here is that you can pay for many products and services you typically have to pay out-of-pocket, like:

  • Doctor Visits, Hospital Bills & Surgeries
  • Dental Costs, Eye Exams & Hearing Aids
  • Even Contacts, Eye Glasses & Supplies like Band-Aids!

But the biggest benefit, and the reason we wrote this blog post, is because you can pay your health insurance, Medicare, and/or Long-Term Care premiums out of this account!  That's right.  The biggest burden we all have is now tax-deductible on the Idaho State level, first-dollar for everyone.

What Does This Mean?

This means you now have the ability to make all of your health insurance costs for you and your family, including insurance premiums, tax-free.  You may be wondering exactly how that translates to you based on your healthcare needs, or your financial picture.  This is exactly why we created our Free Online Savings Calculator, so we could help make something intangible like tax saving into an instant visual for anybody.  

As you enter dollar figures into the calculator for monthly premiums and other healthcare expenses like medical bills, dental, vision, prescriptions etc. the calculator instanty shows you (in red) what you're spending annually.  It also shows you (in green) what you'll save on your taxes, simply by paying all these expenses from an Idaho MSA as opposed to a normal checking account!

This will allow you to see in real time what you're leaving on the table every year, simply by paying these expenses you're going to pay anyway, out of the wrong account.  Check out the calculator and seriously ask yourself, why would you NOT take advantage of this?

Luckily, You Have A Choice

Ultimately, this means that as an Idahoan, you are very lucky.  Idaho is only 1 of 3 states in the entire country that has a program like this for its residents.  It also means that you have a choice.  You can pay your monthly premiums and medical expenses out of a normal checking account and get absolutely nothing for doing it.  Or, you can pay those expenses out of an Idaho MSA, reduce your taxable income and save 7.5% (the Idaho income tax rate) on everything you have to pay anyway!

As I said before, we can't control the skyrocketing costs of healthcare.  But as an Idaohan, you absolutely can control how and where you pay those expenses.  We should be taking every action available to save money for ourselves and for our families, and being proactive and opening an Idaho MSA will both check that box, and make a huge difference.  So stop throwing your money away!  Reduce your taxable income, pay yourself first and open an Idaho Medical Savings Account today!

Posted by idahomsa at 12/13/2016 11:26:00 PM
Friday, September 2, 2016

Here's another useful "Idaho MSA 101" type of topic, and it's a question we get frequently.  "Who can use the funds in my Idaho MSA?" or put another way, "Who's healthcare expenses can I pay for out of my Idaho MSA?".  

Great question, and it's one we get a lot surrounding children, parents and spouses.  The good news is that the Idaho MSA's flexibility really shines here, and you can use the funds within it to pay for the healthcare needs of a lot of different people in your family in addition to yourself.  

Here's our full analysis:

Can I Pay for My Spouse?

Yes!  You can use the funds in your Idaho MSA tax-free to pay for eligible medical expenses for your spouse.  There are no restrictions or requirements outside of what expenses are considered eligible under the standard rules.

Can I Pay for My Kids?

Yes, to a certain extent.  As long as your children are either 21 years or younger, and/or full-time college students, you can pay for the healthcare expenses of your children tax-free.  

It is important to note here, that you do not have to claim your kids as dependents on your tax returns in order to pay for their medical expenses from your Idaho MSA.  We get typically get this question in relation to divorce, where one parent claims the child or children as dependents and the other cannot.  The Idaho MSA does not draw this line.

Can I Pay for My Parents?

No, unfortunately you cannot use the funds in your Idaho MSA to pay for the healthcare expenses of your parents.

Can I Pay for Friends/Neighbors/Co-Workers/Anybody Else?

No, unfortunately you cannot use the funds in your Idaho MSA to pay for the healthcare expenses of anyone other than yourself, your spouse and your children that fit the guidelines.

That should pretty much cover most demographics, but if we left anyone out please let us know and we'll add them in!  We hope you enjoyed this post and found it both helpful and informative.  As a reference, all of this information can be found in Idaho House Bill 595, which is the governing document from the State of Idaho relating to the Idaho Medical Savings Account rules/regulations.

Lastly, if you ever have any questions about the Idaho MSA as a current or future accountholder, please don't hesitate to ask and we will be glad to help you.  That's exactly what we're here for!

Posted by idahomsa at 9/2/2016 8:07:00 PM
Wednesday, July 27, 2016

One thing we hear repeatedly from people we speak to is, "I can just deduct all my medical expenses on my Federal income taxes when I file.  What's the point of using an Idaho MSA if I can do that?"

That's a great question and we will certainly address it in this blog post.  However first and foremost, there is a major misconception among the general public when it comes to deducting your medical expenses from your Federal income.

We sat down with Tom Czarniecki, CPA of Czarniecki & Company to get the a straight answer on the in's and out's of medical tax deductions, so we could come back and explain the situation to everyone else in simple terms.

After speaking at length with Tom the fact of the matter is, you can only deduct what's over the threshold!  

Let's back up a minute here, for all of you who aren't CPAs and don't really know what I mean by "the threshold".  

The Threshold, Explained

In order to deduct your medical expenses on your Federal income tax return, you must meet "the threshold", which simply means you spent more than 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) on those medical costs.  So for a simple example, let's say you made $100,000 last year.  You spent $10,000 (or less) on medical expenses.  You cannot deduct a nickel.  Conversely, if you made $100,000 last year and you spent $10,100 on medical, you could then deduct $100, because that is over your 10% threshold.

Most people do not even come close to meeting this requirement, and therefore cannot deduct their medical expenses on their Federal returns.  So when trying to save money by seeing if you can deduct your medical expenses, this is usually where the road ends for most people.

For Everyone Who Doesn't Meet the Threshold

If this person is you, this exactly why you'd want to utilize an Idaho MSA.  This account allows you to deduct all of these medical expenses first dollar regardless of who you are, your age, what you make, or how much you spent on medical.  It's a simple line item deduction when you file, and it's a big one at up to $20,000 per year.  It isn't a Federal deduction, but 80% of something is always better than 100% of nothing.  Or as my Grandpa always said, "It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."

If you want to see how much you could save, check out our free Idaho MSA Savings Calculator!  Just punch in what you spend on premiums, dental, vision, prescriptions, etc. and it will automatically tally what you spend annually, plus show you what you can save on your taxes simply by routing that money through the Idaho MSA!

For Everyone Who Does Meet the Threshold

As for the other side of the coin, let's assume you are one of the lucky few making up the minority that does hit "the threshold".  Congratulations, but this is hardly a free-for-all deduction party. Here's the big kicker that 90% of the public doesn't understand, and as I mentioned above:  You can only deduct what is over the threshold.

Let that sink in for a second.  You've spent over 10% of your AGI for the entire year on medical costs, but you're not getting a deduction for one nickel that was part of that initial 10%.  You're only deducting everything that was over that first 10%!  For many people spending that much money, that's a huge piece of their income they're simply paying out-of-pocket and getting nothing to show for it in return.

So to back to our original question...why would someone who hits the threshold and deducts their medical expenses want to use an Idaho MSA?  That answer is quite simple.  In order to save money on the 10% you spent out-of-pocket that you're not able to write off, even though you have the ability to deduct what was over that amount!

If you're in this camp and you're wondering what that number looks like, check out our free Idaho MSA Savings Calculator!  Put in whatever amount equates to 10% of your AGI for the year, and the calculator will show you exactly what you'll save on that money as opposed to just paying it out-of-pocket and getting nothing in return.

A "No-Brainer", All Around

For the majority of people who don't meet the 10% AGI threshold, the Idaho MSA's a no-brainer.  You have no other way of deducting anything, so why would you not simply route the money you're spending on premiums and other eligible medical expenses through this account?  You'll be saving money on your State income taxes first dollar, all the way up to a $20,000 max per year.  

Even for those people who can deduct their medical, you're still losing out on every dollar up to that 10% AGI.  Using an Idaho MSA to pay your medical expenses is also a no-brainer for all of you, because it provides you a vehicle that allows you to recoup some additional savings on those dollars for which you would get nothing...even though you can deduct everything else above the 10% threshold!

Have Questions?  We Love Them!

Tax law is some complicated stuff and it's no surprise most people don't understand these rules and how they apply to their own individual (and often fluctuating) situation.  We're definitely not CPAs, but when it comes to the Idaho MSA and how you can best utilize it to your benefit we've got you covered.  We handle everything from the mundane to the extreme every day, so please don't hesitate to contact our office and we'll tell you exactly how an Idaho MSA can help you and your family save the most money possible on your healthcare costs.

To all our existing clients, we appreciate your business!  And to those we don't yet work with, we look forward to the opportunity to serve you.  Have a fantastic day and thanks for reading!

Posted by idahomsa at 7/27/2016 5:22:00 PM
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Congratulations, you've got an Idaho Medical Savings Account (MSA)!  You know what you can spend the money on, and you know all the tax benefits to funding it.  But the most important question of all still remains...

"How do I get money into this thing so I can start saving on my healthcare costs?"

We get this question all the time, and the answer is that there are many different ways to fund your Idaho MSA.  We'll go over all the ways you can make deposits to your account below, and as always, please don't hesitate to contact our office with any questions and we're happy to help!

How To Fund Your Idaho MSA:
 

  1. Using a Debit or Credit Card:

    You can use any debit or credit card to transfer money into your Idaho MSA from our website.  

    When making a deposit, you have the choice to make a "one-time" contribution, or you can choose to make them recurring.  If they're set up to be recurring, we will pull a set amount either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, whichever you prefer.  We will continue to automatically fund your Idaho MSA from that card until you tell us to cancel the recurring transaction.

    Please be  sure to note these transactions are not instantaneous.  Processing funds electronically can take 2-3 business days.

    Funding with a debit/credit card is quick, simple, convenient, and many people choose to use their credit cards so they can also take advantage of rewards programs or bonus miles they earn for using those cards.  That's a double-dip, and a great way to take advantage of those rewards while funding your Idaho MSA at the same time.  You don't even need to leave your couch to do it!  Excellent strategy!
     
  2. Mailing A Physical Check:

    You can write a check from any existing bank account and mail it into our office.  As soon as we receive your check, we will deposit those funds into your Idaho MSA.  When selecting this method be sure to account for the postal mail time, and also be sure to indicate the check is for your Idaho MSA so we know where to put the funds when we receive them.

    To mail us a check, use the following address:

    Idaho Independent Bank
    Attn: Healthcare Accounts
    401 W. Front Street #100
    Boise, ID 83702
     
  3. Mobile Check Deposit:

    If you've got a smartphone, you can download the IIB mobile app and make deposits with your camera!  Just log into the app, snap a picutre of the check and you're good to go.
     
  4. Electronic Transfers with "Transfer Now":

    Our newest deposit feature allows you to quickly and easily transfer funds into your Idaho MSA from any bank account you own at any financial institution.  All you need to do is log into IIB's online banking portal and from there, you can set up these transfers as "one-time", or you can set up a recurring series.  There is no fee to do this, and it's a quick and simple way to make deposits no matter where you'd like the money to pull from.
     
  5. Using Online Bill Pay:

    If any of your existing bank accounts have bill pay, you can use that feature to essentially "pay yourself" automatically.  This is usually a free service, and all you need to do is set your Idaho MSA up as the entity that needs to be paid.  Put in your account number, and use our address listed above.  This will have a check generated from your bank and mailed on your behalf to be deposited into your Idaho MSA when it is received.  Typically, you can set this up to either be "one-time" or recurring, depending on how often you'd like to send funds to your MSA.
     
  6. Walking Into Any Idaho Independent Bank Branch:

    You can head into any of our bank branch locations to make a deposit, just like you would for any other bank account. Come stop in, we'd love to see you!  

That's a lot of options, and there are usually one or two that work great for everyone.  If you don't see something that would work for you or you have questions, please don't hesitate to let us know and we can help you find a solution that works.  

I hope this information was helpful, and we appreciate your business!  All of us here at Idaho Independent Bank look forward to the opportunity to help you and your family save money on your healthcare costs this year with your Idaho Medical Savings Account!

Posted by idahomsa at 7/19/2016 9:18:00 PM
Friday, April 1, 2016

We're excited to announce a brand new addition to our website that will finally let Idahoans get a real-time picture of how much they can actually save by using an Idaho MSA.  In order to really get this point across, we've built a full-blown interactive calculator that allows people to put in their own real numbers relating to numerous areas of their healthcare spending.  These figures are all added together, and the total savings people will realize by simply routing these dollars through an Idaho MSA (as opposed to just paying them out-of-pocket) is displayed at the bottom.  

In most cases, people are finding the savings to be quite dramatic.  A lot of the feedback we're getting is that people don't typically consider all the areas they spend money out-of-pocket on the healthcare costs for themeselves, their spouse and their children.  When you have a tool that allows you to plug all these areas in and really work your way through it, it could be the best 5 minutes you've spent in a long time when you realize how much money you can keep in your pocket.

To see the calculator and all the healthcare expenses we built in, have a look at the screenshot below.  To use the Idaho MSA Calculator yourself just click the link, or click on the image below!

(Click Image to Use Calculator)

Idaho MSA Calculator

Hopefully you've been able to take a few minutes and check out our new calculator!  If your results are like most people's, take a couple more minutes to open an Idaho MSA today and start routing all that money through this account so you can take advantage of the savings!

If you have any feedback on the calculator we'd love to hear that as well.  Are there any areas we missed, or anything you'd like to see added?  Contact our office!  We're always open to suggestions.

Thanks for checking out our blog, and stay tuned for all the latest updates on website features, media and information on the Idaho Medical Savings Account program!

Posted by idahomsa at 4/1/2016 9:44:00 PM
Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Many of you know by now that we have been at the forefront of promoting the Idaho MSA program here locally to people across our beautiful state, but you may or may not know that Idaho Independent Bank also offers Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) as well.  

Because we are not just the Idaho MSA expert but also the HSA expert, we are always being asked...

"What is the difference between an Idaho MSA and an HSA, anyway?"

We completely understand how the nuances between these two can be confusing.  They're very similar and in fact, the Idaho MSA in many ways was modeled after the Federal HSA.  In many instances (like eligible expenses, for example), they actually refer to the same IRS Publication 502 to determine what is allowed, and what is not.

That being said, there are many key similarities and differences we wanted to highlight to help clear up all of this confusion.  We thought one of the best ways to do this (other than writing this blog post!) was to create a nice flyer for all you visual learners out there.  Sometimes all of this "MSA vs. HSA" alphabet soup can get a little confusing.

Take a look at our flyer below and let us know what you think!

(Click Image to Enlarge)

Idaho MSA vs. HSA Comparison

We hope this flyer is a big help, and we're always open to suggestions!  If you have any questions about Idaho MSAs, HSAs, or simply just a suggestion for an flyer or a blog post please don't hesitate to contact our office!  We would love to hear from you.

Lastly, be sure to check out all the other flyers we've done in our Idaho MSA Infographic Library as well.

Thanks for stopping by our blog, and we look forward to working with you to help you and your family maximize your healthcare savings this year!

Posted by idahomsa at 3/15/2016 6:33:00 PM
Tuesday, August 18, 2015

One of the great features to your Idaho MSA is the incredible amount of access and convenience you quite literally have at your fingertips.  How is this, you ask?  Mobile banking!  

With mobile banking, you get 24/7 account access through all your iOS or Android devices like cell phones and tablets.  You can check your balance, view account history, transfer funds, pay bills...you can even deposit checks to your Idaho MSA using mobile deposit!

Take a couple minutes to check out the video below that outlines all the bells and whistles, and you'll be accessing your account from the palm of your hand anytime, day or night!

We hope you enjoyed the tutorial!  Be sure to check out all our other videos at the Idaho MSA Video Library, and let us know if you've got an idea for one as well!  Thanks for watching!

Posted by idahomsa at 8/18/2015 5:47:00 PM
Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bill Pay is a fantastic free feature that comes with your Idaho MSA.  With Bill Pay, you can pay anyone electronically (either one time or recurring), set up reminders, track your history and so much more.  In order to take advantage of this program, you'll first need to set it up.

In order to make this process as quick and simple as possible, we've got a great video tutorial that goes over all the features and explains how to enroll in the program.  Check out the video below, and let us know what you think!

Posted by idahomsa at 8/11/2015 9:55:00 PM
Friday, March 27, 2015

We recently had the opportunity to publish a story in the Idaho Business Review about the Idaho Medical Savings Account!  They heard about the program and (like so many other Idahoans) had no idea it even existed.  They asked us to write up a brief description about what the Idaho MSA is and how it pertains to local Idaho businesses.  We jumped at the opportunity, and are so grateful for the exposure it has provided us.  

The article ran in the "viewpoints" section that was printed on March 13, 2015.  Unfortunately we can't link directly to the article on the IBR website because you'd need a subscription to log in and read it, but here's the next best thing!  We printed it off, scanned and uploaded it to our SlideShare account so you can check it out.

Give it a read and let us know what you think!

 

 

Posted by idahomsa at 3/27/2015 9:01:00 PM
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Idaho MSA Video LibrarySometimes you just need to see something to believe it.  Or, perhaps you're one of those "visual learners" that loves to watch something work, as opposed to being told how it works.  At any rate, we've got some great news!  We've launched our Idaho MSA Video Library, which is a collection of some great video tutorials explaining different products and features on your Idaho MSA. 

"How To" topics like online banking, mobile deposit, bill pay, and electronic transfers are all covered.

In the future, we'll be posting educational videos explaining topics about Idaho MSAs like how they work, why they're a benefit and who can have one.

We're always open to suggestions, and we would love the opportunity to provide you with an answer to any question you may have.  Thank you for taking the time to check out our new Idaho MSA Video Library, and for the opportunity to earn your business.

Posted by idahomsa at 11/19/2014 7:14:00 PM
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Idaho MSA Infographics GalleryWe know the Idaho MSA can be a little confusing at times, with all the insurance and financial vernacular like "deductibles" and "dollar for dollar tax-reduction" and so on...  So in order to give everyone a break and at the same time, make it a little easier to understand for all our visual learners...we thought we'd start building some flyers to help get the points across!  

Sometimes seeing this information in a fun and creative VISUAL way helps to explain it far better than we ever could with a bunch of paragraphs on a webpage, so we got to work building some flyers on topics we knew would help right away.  Things like our "Idaho MSA Quick Reference Guide" that explains what the account is, how it works and even has a visual list of eligible MSA expenses.  We've also already done one for our "Healthcare Discount Program", too.

We'll be showcasing all these visuals we build on our brand new Infographics Gallery page to make them both easy to find and easy to view.  Flip through all the ones we've currently got posted there, and click on them to expand them for easier reading.  Be sure to keep an eye out for the ones we design in the future, which brings me to my last point...we'd love your input!

We're building these visuals to help everyone get a better understanding of the Idaho MSA program, so we want to design them around topics you're interested in.  If you don't understand something or want more information on a particular topic, let us know and we'll draw one up.  

We're looking forward to your feedback, so thank you for checking them out!

Posted by idahomsa at 7/30/2014 7:00:00 PM
Thursday, July 17, 2014

Have you ever wondered what you can spend all those hard-earned Idaho MSA dollars on?  Wonder no more!  We now have our Eligible Idaho MSA Expenses page up and running, and it makes it easier than ever for you to figure out what products and services are coveredwith those tax-free dollars.

To make it as simple as possible for you, we took the GIGANTIC list of common medical expenses that are eligible and put them in alphabetical order by the letter they start with.  So "contacts" under "C" and "glasses" under "G".

This is not a complete and comprehensive list, this is simply a quick resource for you to locate common medical products and services that are considered eligible.  For the full list of items, please refer to IRS Publication 502.

That's it for the eligible expenses update, but if you have any questions about what you can or can't spend money on, or the Idaho MSA in general...please don't hesitate to contact our office.  We love to help and we look forward to hearing from you.  Have a wonderful day!

Posted by idahomsa at 7/17/2014 9:19:00 PM
Monday, April 21, 2014

Welcome to Idaho MSAAfter a long building process and an inordinate amount of research, we've finally launched our brand new website!  

All of us at Idaho Independent Bank are so excited to make this committment to bring Idahoans what we're referring to as "Idaho's Premier Medical Savings Account", and we finally get to announce the launch of our new website to prove it!

Even though Idaho MSAs have been around for a quite some time, not many Idahoans have one and almost nobody knows about them.  On top of that, we know the Idaho MSA topic can be a little dry and sometimes gets complicated.  So with all that in mind...our goal was to make this website as consumer-friendly as we possibly could.  

We wanted to create a website full of free resources, where people could come and quickly and easily understand what an Idaho MSA was and how it would help their business or their family.  We'll be producing short and sweet videos, infographics, powerpoints and webinars.  

We're working hard to get this website up to speed, and we're trying to consider all the angles and information we can to make this site the best resource it can be for everyone.  But the most important thing we need...is your opinions!  

You are the consumer, the person that the site was intended for, so if you don't see something you need, let us know!  If you don't like the way something looks, or it's hard to find information on a topic, let us know!  ...Of course, you can always let us know what you like about the site, too :)  But seriously, YOU are who we have in mind with every decision we've made, and YOU are who we can't wait to hear from.  

Thank you so much for stopping by, and we look forward to the opportunity to serve you as an Idaho MSA account holder!

Posted by idahomsa at 4/21/2014 11:42:00 PM
 Tags: msa idaho msa feedback
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