What is the VEBA Plan?
The VEBA Plan is a funded health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) program for employees of school districts, educational service districts, and community and technical colleges in the state of Washington. The VEBA Medical Expense Plan (MEP) is a similar program for state agencies and higher education institutions. Both plans are commonly referred to as the “VEBA Plan” or “VEBA Plans.”
To learn more, watch our Welcome! HRA Overview video.
What is a VEBA?
A voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (VEBA) is a type of trust instrument authorized under Section 501(c)(9) of the Internal Revenue Code. VEBA Plan assets (participant account balances) are held in a VEBA trust.
What is an HRA?
A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is an account-based health plan. You can use your HRA funds to reimburse out-of-pocket medical expenses and premiums.
Why are HRAs sometimes called VEBAs?
Many understand the term “VEBA” to mean a benefit plan that reimburses medical care expenses. This is because VEBA trusts are often used to hold plan assets (participant account balances). The technical term, as defined by the IRS, is “HRA.”
How do I benefit from the VEBA Plan?
You benefit by having an account you can use to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses, including retiree insurance premiums. Plus, you get to enjoy “triple” tax savings: (1) no taxes on contributions; (2) no taxes on investment earnings (if any); and (3) no taxes on claim reimbursements (withdrawals). This is the best possible tax advantage—even better than tax-deferred 457, 403(b), and 401(k) plans with taxable withdrawals.
How is my HRA different from a health savings account (HSA) or health flexible spending account (FSA)?
All three types of accounts reimburse medical expenses, but there are several differences. Here are three of the main ones: (1) HSAs and FSAs have annual contribution limits, your HRA does not; (2) HSAs require enrollment in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), your HRA does not; and (3) FSAs have annual use-or-lose and/or carryover limits, your HRA does not.
When can I start using my HRA?
Depending on your HRA plan design, you can use your money right away or save it up for later, such as during retirement. You can file claims at any time for expenses incurred on or after your claims eligibility date. Your claims eligibility is: (1) the date specified by your employer upon enrollment; (2) the date upon which we have received both your enrollment and a contribution from your employer; or (3) the date you separate from service or retire. Depending on your plan design, claims eligibility may be limited while you’re still working.
Who is eligible for benefits?
Your HRA covers you, your spouse, and dependents. This includes your young-adult children through the end of the calendar year in which they turn age 26.
Do I have to use my HRA funds right away?
No, your unused HRA balance carries over from year to year. There are no “use-or-lose” rules or annual carryover limits.
How can I check my HRA balance and account information?
Just log in online or through our mobile app, HRAgo®. Your available account balance and other information will be displayed or easily accessible from the landing page.
What happens if I change employers, go on a leave of absence, or retire?
Your HRA is yours to keep until funds are exhausted.
What happens if I pass away?
If funds remain after all outstanding claims have been reimbursed, your HRA will be transferred to your surviving spouse. All of your dependents will remain covered until they no longer qualify as a dependent. After your spouse passes away, or if you have no spouse, any remaining HRA funds may be transferred equally (and only once) to your survivors in the following order of priority: (1) dependents and non-dependent (adult) children; (2) designated beneficiary(ies); or (3) other survivor(s) as follows: state-registered non-dependent domestic partner, grandchildren, siblings, parents, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, or cousins.
For more details, read our What Happens if I Pass Away? handout.
What’s the difference between the Standard and Post-separation HRA Plan designs?
The main difference has to do with claims eligibility. Under the Standard HRA plan design, you can file claims at any time. Under the Post-separation HRA plan design and the VEBA MEP, which is a post-separation HRA plan, you must first separate from service or retire from your employer before becoming fully claims eligible. All other terms and conditions are the same.
How do I know which Plan I’m in?
After logging in online, the Plan you’re in (Standard HRA or Post-separation HRA) will be listed directly under your account number on the landing page (dashboard).
What are the fees?
Keep in mind this is a group health plan, not a retirement plan. Plan administrative expenses include claims processing, customer service, account administration, printing, postage, legal, consulting, local servicing, auditing, etc. To cover these costs, a flat monthly fee and an annualized asset-based fee are charged to participant accounts. The monthly fee is $1.50 (if claims-eligible) or $0.75 (if not claims-eligible). This fee is charged only to your first account (if you have more than one), and it is waived if your account balance(s) total more than $5,000. The annualized asset-based fee averages around 1%. A .25% discount applies to any portion of your account balance(s) in excess of $10,000. Participant account values change daily based on activity, which includes investment earnings/losses, contribution and claims activity, and assessment of the asset-based fee.
To the extent permitted or required by law, certain fees, assessments, or other amounts payable to the federal government, including the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee, may also be deducted from participant accounts. Investment fund operating expenses vary by fund. You can view these fees on our quarterly Investment Fund Overview.
How do I register online?
Just click here to open the participant login window. Then, click the Register button and follow the instructions.
For more details, watch our Online Registration Instructions video.
Do you have a mobile app?
Yes, it’s called HRAgo®. After registering online, download the app from the App Store or Google Play. With HRAgo®, you can do almost everything “on the go.” This includes checking your account balance, submitting claims, and snapping and uploading pics of supporting documentation for claims and Benefits Card transactions.
How is my HRA funded?
Your employer sends tax-free money to your HRA. This money comes from a sick leave cash out, vacation cash out, mandatory employee contribution, or some other source. In many cases, these funds would have otherwise been paid to you as taxable income. Your employer might also contribute funds in place of some other tax-free employee benefit.
What are the investment options?
You can choose a custom pre-mixed portfolio (Option A) or build your own (Option B). Your HRA balance is invested in the VEBA Conservative Portfolio (default) until you choose something else.
For more details, read our Choosing Your Investment Allocation brochure. Also, the Investment Fund Overview (updated quarterly) contains historical performance and fund operating expenses, which vary by fund.
How can I change my investment allocation?
Just log in online or with HRAgo® and click Investments. Changes are allowed once per month. You should consult with a professional financial advisor and carefully read the fund prospectuses and fact sheets before making investment decisions. The VEBA Board of Trustees and its agents do not give investment advice.
How do I file a claim?
Log in online or from our mobile app, HRAgo®, and click Claims. Be prepared to upload proper supporting documentation (proof). IRS rules require us to verify every expense. You can files claims at any time for expenses incurred on or after your claims eligibility date.
To learn more, watch our How to File a Claim video.
What type of documentation is required?
Usually the Explanation of Benefits from your insurance company works best and has everything we need. If you don’t have one of those, ask your service provider for an itemized invoice. They should be familiar with what we need. Most expenses require these five things:
- Patient name (you, your spouse, or dependent);
- Date you received the medical care or purchased a qualified healthcare item;
- Service provider name (doctor, pharmacy, clinic, or hospital);
- Description of the service or item; and
- Amount you paid or owe out of pocket.
To learn more, watch our Supporting Documentation for Claims video.
How long does it take to process a claim?
Standard claims processing takes five to seven business days.
How are claims payments issued?
Payment is issued by direct deposit (if set up) or paper check. Direct deposit is more secure and faster than waiting for paper checks in the mail. To set up direct deposit, log in and click My Profile.
What types of medical care expenses can be reimbursed?
Expenses must qualify under Section 213(d) of Internal Revenue Code. Common examples include doctor visits, prescriptions, dental, vision, orthodontia, chiropractic, medical equipment, emergency services, and hundreds more.
Qualified premiums include amounts paid for medical, dental, and vision insurance, Medicare Part B, Medicare Part D, and Medicare Supplement coverage. Reimbursement of tax-qualified long-term care insurance premiums is subject to annual IRS limits. These limits are indexed to inflation and updated annually.
Qualified premiums deducted from your paycheck after taxes are eligible, unless your employer offers a pre-tax option. Premiums deducted from your spouse’s paycheck after taxes may be eligible. Premiums deducted from a pension benefit or paid directly are generally eligible. Marketplace exchange premiums subsidized by the Premium Tax Credit cannot be reimbursed.
For more details, log in, click Resources, and look for Medical Care Expenses. Certain limitations may apply.
Can my retiree premiums be reimbursed automatically?
Yes, we can automatically reimburse most monthly insurance premiums, including Medicare premiums. Just log in, click Claims, then click Set Up an Automatic Premium Reimbursement. You can also do this from our mobile app, HRAgo®. If you’d rather use a paper form, download and print our Automatic Premium Reimbursement form, or request one from our Customer Care Center.
To learn more, watch our How to Set Up an Automatic Premium Reimbursement video.
Do you offer a debit card?
Yes, our OneBridge Visa® Benefits Card lets you instantly pay for qualified medical expenses directly from your HRA. Just swipe your card to pay for things like office visits, prescriptions, lab work, hospital stays, and dental and vision services.
How can I get a debit card?
Benefits Cards are mailed to all new participants upon enrollment. If you need to request an additional or replacement card, contact our Customer Care Center.
Why do I have to sometimes provide documentation when I use my debit card?
The IRS requires us to verify that every Benefits Card payment is for a qualified medical expense. We can usually do this from the electronic transaction data we receive. If not, we’ll let you know right away by mail, email, or through our mobile app, HRAgo®.
Coordination with Other Benefits
Can I have a health flexible spending account (FSA) and an HRA?
Yes, but you must (and should) use up your health FSA funds before using your HRA funds. Health FSA funds are subject to annual use-or-lose or carryover limitations.
Can I have a health savings account (HSA) and an HRA?
Yes, and you can use either one in any order (no ordering rules). However, if your HRA is fully claims eligible, you and any other covered individuals are ineligible for HSA contributions. To qualify for HSA contributions, you must elect “limited HRA coverage.” You must also be covered by a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP) and have no other first-dollar coverage.
Only HDHP premiums and dental, vision, and orthodontia expenses and premiums may be reimbursed from your HRA while it’s limited for HSA contribution purposes. You can switch back to full HRA coverage after you stop making or receiving HSA contributions. Certain limitations may apply.
To learn more, watch our How Your HRA Coordinates with Other Benefits video.
How does my HRA coordinate with Medicare?
Medicare should be primary if you are no longer working for the employer who set up your HRA. Make sure we have your separation date on file. Log in online and look inside the box with your account balance. If you don’t see your separation date, please provide it to us. Click the envelope icon at the top right of your screen to use our Secure Messaging Center, or contact our Customer Care Center.
Medicare is usually secondary if your HRA is fully claims eligible and you’re still working for the employer who set it up. This means your HRA is primary, and you must use it all before Medicare will pay claims. Medicare can even take your HRA funds to cover prior Medicare claims.
To protect your HRA, you can elect “limited HRA coverage” for you and/or any other covered individual on Medicare. This will make Medicare primary while you’re still working. Only coverage would be limited to the following premiums and expenses: Medicare, Medicare Supplement, dental, vision, orthodontia, and long-term care expenses and premiums may be reimbursed from your HRA while it’s limited for Medicare coordination purposes. When you stop working, you can switch your HRA back to full coverage, and Medicare will remain primary.
How can I qualify for the Premium Tax Credit (subsidy)?
If your HRA is fully claims eligible and you want to qualify for the Premium Tax Credit, you may need to elect “limited HRA coverage” or use up your remaining HRA balance. There are other Premium Tax Credit eligibility requirements you must meet. Go to Eligibility for the Premium Tax Credit on the IRS’s website to get the basics.
Only dental, vision, orthodontia, and long-term care expenses and premiums may be reimbursed from your HRA while it’s limited for Premium Tax Credit purposes.
How do I elect “limited HRA coverage?”
Use our Limited HRA Coverage Election form. Submit your completed form as instructed on the form. Complete and submit a new form when you’re ready to switch back to full HRA coverage.
Forms are available online. Log in and click Resources.