So I've read the IRS publications and I'm still kind of confused.

I have single coverage on my employer's health plan with a qualified HDHP and along with an HSA. This is pretty clear cut.

I am also enrolled in my spouse's health plan (which is also an HDHP but is not enrolled in her HSA). I understand that I am still qualified to contribute to my HSA because both plans are HDHPs.

However, the question I have is: Can I contribute the "family" amount to my employer's HSA (and not my wife's) because both my wife and I have HDHPs? The reason is that my wife doesn't make nearly as much money as I do, and contributing to her HSA would be a drain on her paycheck. I'd much rather contribute for both of us on my employer's HSA (even though it's a single plan).

My employer says that I must have a family plan in order to contribute the family amount, however I am on a family plan on my spouse's plan.

The publication is not very clear on this matter.

  • Good question. Just curious why the dual coverage? Either way if you wife's paycheck was much smaller wouldn't your relatively larger paycheck make up the difference? Could you write your wife a check for the difference if it does make a difference?
    – MrChrister
    Sep 13, 2012 at 4:20
  • 1
    @MrChrister - My wife is very independent and she likes to have her own money. Dual coverage is because my plan has a very high deductible while my wifes is significantly lower (still a HDHP though) I have a chronic condition that is very expensive to treat, and what isn't paid for by primary gets paid for by secondary (after deductible). If I don't have a health plan with my employer, I can't use their HSA. Sep 13, 2012 at 4:52
  • This is a statement of opinion (and don't say I am a misogynist, because in fact, I am female). MystereMan: If you have a chronic condition that is expensive to treat, but have a good job and income, then your wife should compromise and not make you worry about silly stuff like this. She should be thankful that she has a good, thoughtful husband and she should take care of him as best she can to ensure he is happy and healthy. Your wife is "very independent and likes to have her own money"? @MrChrister made a very sensible comment, you could just give her cash to buy what she wants. Sep 17, 2012 at 0:05
  • @FeralOink - I appreciate the sentiment, but there are other potential issues as well. We file our taxes separately for legal reasons, and that complicates things. Sep 17, 2012 at 0:07
  • It is foolish in the extreme to do anything that even possibly could disrupt or complicate your medical treatment, particularly if the condition is chronic and expensive to treat. I would proceed very carefully about this. If your current medical providers are satisfactory and convenient and agreeable to you, I wouldn't take any action that would change that. Sep 17, 2012 at 0:08

1 Answer 1


This is a great question!

The IRS is not 100% clear on this. IRS publications do however very strongly suggest that assuming your wife has a plan providing family coverage, you can contribute up to your family maximum.

If she does NOT have a family coverage plan then the answer is definitively no, you may only contribute the individual limit. Note if you have children covered by her plan then she is considered to have "family coverage" even if you are not covered by her plan (see here, question 12).

Latest IRS HSA Publication

From the 2012 IRS publication, bottom of Page 4.

For 2012, if you have self-only HDHP coverage, you can contribute up to $3,100. If you have family HDHP coverage, you can contribute up to $6,250.

This is presumably the referencing the definition which is introduced and discussed for married couples on Page 6:

Rules for married people. If either spouse has family HDHP coverage, both spouses are treated as having family HDHP coverage. If each spouse has family coverage under a separate plan, the contribution limit for 2012 is $6,250. You must reduce the limit on contributions, before taking into account any additional contributions, by the amount contributed to both spouse's Archer MSAs. After that reduction, the contribution limit is split equally between the spouses unless you agree on a different division.

Example. For 2012, Mr. Auburn and his wife are both eligible individuals. They each have family coverage under separate HDHPs. Mr. Auburn is 58 years old and Mrs. Auburn is 53. Mr. and Mrs. Auburn can split the family contribution limit ($6,250) equally or they can agree on a different division. If they split it equally, Mr. Auburn can contribute $4,125 to an HSA (one-half the maximum contribution for family coverage ($3,125) + $1,000 additional contribution) and Mrs. Auburn can contribute $3,125 to an HSA.

The last example is nearly the exact situation you are in assuming your wife's plan is family coverage. The only assumption beyond what is explicitly written you need to make is that you are considered to have family coverage in the example as per the "Rules for married people" section, even though your plan only is a single-coverage plan.

This conclusion seems to logically follow from information in the FAQs here (see Q32), as well as this document.

Neither the above example nor any IRS documents referenced in this answer cover your situation completely.

  • So would it be better to have two individual accounts so both can contribute the extra $1,000 at 55? Why even bother with a family account at all since the single account appears to be exactly have the family anyway, but with the lost benefit that both can contribute the $1,000
    – Shawn
    Mar 20, 2018 at 3:36

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