Few Employers Offer Health Savings Accounts, Few Employees Sign Up, Studies Find
Since the introduction of health savings accounts as part of the 2003 Medicare law, "only a handful of employers have begun to offer the accounts and very few employees have chosen them," the New York Times reports (Freudenheim, New York Times, 1/11).
To qualify for HSAs, individuals must have a catastrophic health insurance policy with an annual deductible of at least $1,000 for individuals, or $2,000 for families. The accounts are portable, and individuals can contribute as much as $2,600 annually to use toward health costs . Families can contribute up to $5,150 annually (California Healthline, 12/17/04).
Only 3% of large employers said they would offer HSAs this year, according to a Hewitt Associates survey of 500 large companies. Seventeen percent of employers offer some form of high-deductible health plan, including flexible spending accounts and health reimbursement accounts, Hewitt said.
According to a separate survey of 1,000 people by Watson Wyatt, fewer than one-third of workers with health insurance have heard about HSAs. Once informed about HSAs, 66% of workers said the idea of having to pay the full price of prescription drugs until catastrophic coverage kicked in "seemed extremely undesirable," and 57% said they did not want to pay higher deductibles for health coverage, the Times reports.
However, 84% of workers said that allowing unspent funds in HSAs to be rolled over from year to year is an "important feature," the survey found, according to the Times. Linda Bergthold, a Watson Wyatt health strategy consultant, said that about one in 10 employees chooses a high-deductible health plan if offered a choice in plans (New York Times, 1/11).