Well, there isn’t much good to be said about the Medicare bill that Congress just passed, but the cloud does have this bit of silver lining for those of us rooting around for tax shelters:

New health savings accounts included in the Medicare legislation would let individuals save, invest and then spend money tax-free.

To avoid all taxes, the dollars must pay for medical expenses.…

Critics contend the accounts establish a tax shelter for the wealthy and set a precedent for future accounts to let affluent families evade taxes.…

The accounts, expected to bring in $6.4 billion less to the Treasury over , would be available to individuals with high-deductible health insurance. The deductible must be at least $1,000 for an individual or $2,000 for a family.

Individuals, their employers or their family members could put away the amount of the annual deductible, up to $2,600 a year for individuals and $5,150 a year for families. People age 55 to 65 could make additional contributions to build a medical nest egg.

Money deposited in the accounts could be invested, then withdrawn free of taxes for insurance premiums, prescription drugs, long-term care services, Medicare premiums and other health costs. Employers would not pay payroll taxes on amounts they contribute as an employee benefits.

An account stays with a person for a lifetime. Upon death, assets can be transferred tax-free to a spouse.

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