Telemedicine is becoming a popular method of providing a variety of medical services. Telemedicine benefits allow employees to interact with their doctor via phone, video chat, email or text for diagnosis, consultation, and treatment.
Employers that offer high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) that are compatible with health savings accounts (HSAs) need to understand how a telemedicine benefit may impact participants’ HSA eligibility.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not specifically addressed the impact of telemedicine on HSA eligibility. However, the general rules for HSA contributions strictly limit the types of health plan coverage that eligible individuals may have. Whether telemedicine is disqualifying coverage for HSA purposes depends on how the telemedicine benefit is structured. Employers that want to offer a telemedicine benefit while preserving HSA eligibility will need to make sure that the telemedicine benefit is designed in a way that is HSA–compatible.
Telemedicine is a way for health care professionals to provide patient care through technology (such as a web-based communication or phone/video chat) rather than in-person consultations. For example, through telemedicine, a patient may be able to communicate in real-time with his or her doctor from home via phone, video chat, email or text for the purpose of medical evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.
While telemedicine is not a new type of employee benefit, it is growing in popularity with employers and employees. Telemedicine can provide easier access to health care services for employees who live in rural areas and employees who travel frequently for work. By accessing health care professionals through telemedicine, employees can avoid having to take time off from work for in-person office visits. Also, because telemedicine consultations are generally less expensive than in-person visits, incorporating a telemedicine benefit may help control health coverage costs. In some states, health insurance policies are required to cover at least some telemedicine services.
Before implementing a telemedicine benefit, employers should consider the compliance issues associated with this type of benefit. Employers that sponsor HDHPs will also want to consider whether the telemedicine coverage could disqualify employees from making HSA contributions.