X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

LOS ANGELES – It usually only takes 10 simple words from a federal bureaucrat to strike fear into the heart of the public: “I’m from the government . . . and I’m here to help you.” But NCUA tried to turn that notion on its head when it came to town June 28 to present its “Access Across America Economic Empowerment Summit.” The Los Angeles stop, which attracted about 100 credit union officials from as far away as Alaska, marked the fourth of five stops on a cross-country road trip aimed at educating credit unions about federal resources available to them. Other stops were in Iowa, Wisconsin and Florida; the last scheduled presentation is in Dallas, Texas. The all-day program covered topics on member business lending, financial education, identity theft, home ownership, Health Savings Accounts and serving emerging markets and the underserved. “We’re recognizing that folks just don’t know about the programs,” said NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson. “What we’re focusing on are partnerships with other federal agencies and their services that can be put to work by credit unions.” Panels, consisting of up to five people and a facilitator, each made hour-long presentations on a topic. Among the federal agencies represented were the Small Business Administration, the Agriculture, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services departments, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the NCUA. Other speakers included luncheon keynoter Anna Maria Farias, deputy assistant secretary for grant programs in HUD’s office of community planning and development, and closing speaker John Bryant, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Operation Hope, Inc., in Los Angeles. Johnson said NCUA’s goal was to provide credit unions with valuable information about the numerous federal resources available to them. “When we say, `We’re from the government, we’re here to help you,’ we’re actually trying to make good on that,” she said. “I think you’re going to find that’s exactly what we’ve done.” Johnson said she had taken to heart a saying from President George W. Bush – who appointed her to the NCUA Board in 2002 – that “`It’s more than good intentions. It’s good results.’ “We can talk a good story, but unless we can actually produce those results we really haven’t done much,” Johnson said. “The whole intention of this [program] is to get to those good results.” Johnson said she hoped that credit unions would come away from the session with at least one idea that they could implement. “If they’ll just take one program and make a difference, that’s what I’m hoping for,” Johnson said. One of the newer concepts presented at the conference, and one which credit unions are only now beginning to explore, was Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). “It’s something I think you will want to offer to your members and your employees,” said Maurice “Maury” Pilver, president of HealthAmerica Credit Union which is one of only a handful of credit unions nationwide that offer HSAs. An HSA is an alternative to traditional insurance, providing a new way for consumers to pay for their health care. The HSA is a tax-sheltered savings account ($2,650 maximum contribution for individuals, $5,250 for families per year) which is used to pay for routine medical expenses (the savings can be used for other purposes but the tax savings are then lost). Larger medical expenses are covered by a required high-deductible health insurance policy, which usually costs substantially less than a standard policy. While some have compared HSAs to Individual Retirement Accounts or 401k retirement plans, Treasury Department officials contend that HSAs are an even better deal. HSAs are the “trifecta of tax,” said William “Tom” Reeder of the Treasury Department. “It’s better than a 401k. It’s better than an IRA. It’s better than anything, because the amount of money going in is tax-free. The build-up is tax-free and the amount that comes out is tax-free. Nothing has those three advantages at the same time,” he said. “It’s like gold from sea water,” Reeder added. “It is what tax geeks search for.” Although the Treasury Department reports that banks and credit unions “are automatically approved to offer HSAs to their customers as either a trust or a custodial account,” state chartered CUs in California are not yet eligible. Legislation is pending in the legislature to allow them to offer those accounts. “It will be law soon,” predicted Matt Davidson, executive vice president of the California Credit Union League and facilitator of the panel on HSAs. “It’s a no brainer,” he said. “It helps credit unions. It helps consumers. It doesn’t cost the `govanator’ (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger) so much money, so it’s a good thing. It will pass.” Reeder said HSAs have “really taken off faster than I think anyone has expected. “I think whether you are acting as an employer or whether you are acting as a financial services organization or you’re simply an interested citizen, you should be interested in Health Savings Accounts,” he said. No credit unions in the audience offered HSAs to their employees and only one offered HSA accounts to members. “One of the biggest complaints we [at Treasury] have heard from citizens is the inability for people to have their HSAs at the place where they do most of their checking and saving,” Reeder said. “Most people do not want to go to an out-of-state financial organization to hold their HSA money.” “If you start offering HSAs, you will be leaders in your field,” said Regina Metz, a staff attorney with the NCUA office of general counsel. She noted that only three or four CUs currently offer HSAs but predicted “that number is going to skyrocket.” “You can offer it or they can go to the bank,” said Pilver. Metz noted that banks already were forming alliances with health insurance companies and were offering custodial services, cash management, record keeping and investment management. Fees received on the accounts can make them “quite lucrative,” Metz said. She cited surveys showing there would be an estimated 320,000 HSAs opened by the end of 2005 with $172 million in assets. Projections are that the total will reach 6 million accounts with $4.8 billion in assets by the end of 2008, she said. -

Credit Union Times

Join Credit Union Times

Don’t miss crucial strategic and tactical information necessary to run your institution and better serve your members. Join Credit Union Times now!

  • Free unlimited access to Credit Union Times' trusted and independent team of experts for extensive industry news, conference coverage, people features, statistical analysis, and regulation and technology updates.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and Credit Union Times events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including TreasuryandRisk.com and Law.com.

Already have an account? Sign In Now
Join Credit Union Times

Copyright © 2019 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.