From forgotten account to saving grace: Heather’s HSA story
One of Starship’s own Customer Support Specialists, Heather, has made it her job to help people discover the wonders of health savings accounts (HSAs). But it wasn’t until Heather’s HSA helped save her life that she began to champion them. This is her story.
The best advice I’ve ever received from a manager is this: “Always max out your employer match on anything they offer you. That’s your money, don’t leave it on the table.” Twelve years ago, that advice quite literally saved my life.
I’ve had a health saving account (HSA) since they came into existence. The company I worked for converted our flexible spending accounts (FSAs) into HSAs the same year they were established in 2003. I was excited to learn that with an HSA, my savings no longer expired at the end of the year, rather they carried over to the next.
I contributed the maximum I could in order to make the most of my employer match and, to be honest, didn’t think much about it beyond that. Being in my mid-twenties at the time, I didn’t use my health balance much aside from paying for copays. Like most twenty-somethings, I spent money, saved a little, and forgot about it.
A four-digit surprise
Fast forward seven years to January 2010. I’d been laid off a few months prior due to the economic downturn and didn’t qualify for Medicaid coverage alongside my unemployment benefits. Oh, and I was sick. Really sick. I had a double ear infection and a horrible case of strep throat that made it difficult to speak or swallow, much less do anything else.
Being unemployed at the time, I was relying on those bi-weekly government checks to keep me afloat. When my strep was at its height, I had $7 in my bank account and would have to wait nearly two more weeks to receive any further funding.
I was sitting on the couch, crying and in gruesome pain when my roommate asked: “Have you ever had an HSA?”
I did the sick-person-shuffle over to my “box of important stuff I might organize someday,” dug through it, and found, to my surprise, my old HSA debit card.
``I was totally unaware of how useful an HSA could be. But in my defense, no one had ever told me.``
I called customer service and found that I had a balance! A four-digit one, no less! I saw a Nurse Practitioner that day and paid for both my visit and my prescription with the HSA debit card I’d found mere hours earlier.
Thanking ‘past me’
Strep throat is nothing to mess with. In fact, if it’s left too long, strep can do irreparable damage (or worse… if you catch my drift). Which brings me to this moment, many years after my terrifying strep throat experience.
The story I just described has me remembering how grateful I was for that stroke of luck. I was totally unaware of how useful an HSA could be. But in my defense, no one had ever told me.
Nowadays, I’m not just an avid HSA-user; I’ve also made it my job to help people obtain and understand their accounts. As a Starship Customer Support Specialist, I’m not just financially invested in an HSA… I’m emotionally invested, too. Mine helped save my life.
Saving for another rainy day
I learned a great deal from my experience. I’m savvier with money now, but still cognizant that things happen and the best we can do is be ready.
These days, I keep all (yes, all) of my health receipts. I’m privileged to be in a different situation than I was when I had strep way back when. Now, I’m able to pay out of pocket for my medical expenses, which means those receipts could turn out to be real gold if I need them in an emergency one day. It’ll only take a few steps for me to pay myself back from my HSA to my checking account.
My HSA now exists for me as an additional retirement account as well as an emergency fund. Plus, if I ever need to directly pay for an eligible expense and don’t have the cash in my pocket to do so, my Starship card is right there to help.
I’ve even started getting into investing with my HSA, so my money’s working for me even when I’m not checking up on it.
Moral of the story? Don’t leave money on the table. You never know when it might save the day.