Kaiser Permanente To Begin To Offer Health Savings Accounts in Some States
California-based HMO Kaiser Permanente this week unveiled a plan to offer health savings accounts to individuals and employers in Colorado, Georgia and some Northwestern states that purchase high-deductible health plans, the Wall Street Journal reports. Kaiser likely will begin to offer HSAs in California in 2006 (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 11/15).
Under the new Medicare law, HSAs, which allow individuals to save funds tax-free for future medical expenses, are available to members of health plans that have a deductible higher than $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for families. Employees, employers or both can contribute annually as much as a combined $2,600 for individuals and $5,150 for families for HSAs (California Healthline, 3/31).
In 2005, Kaiser plans to offer HSAs to about 25% of 8.3 million members. Wells Fargo will administer the HSAs. Kaiser officials hope that the high-deductible health plans, which the company began to offer last year, in combination with HSAs will attract new members who previously could not afford health insurance. According to the Journal, high-deductible health plans are "much less expensive" than the more comprehensive coverage offered by most HMOs.
The decision to offer HSAs "flies in the face of Kaiser's 60-year-old culture, which has relied on physicians' decisions rather than members' financial incentives to direct care and control costs," according to the Journal.
Kaiser Senior Vice President of Products and Marketing Arthur Southam said, "This is a very hard change for Kaiser to have that broad discussion about how the evolution of our products portfolio fits into our core values." He added, "If all we offer at Kaiser is comprehensive coverage, then all of the sick people go to Kaiser and everyone else goes to the other plans" (Wall Street Journal, 11/15).