Popularity of Health Savings Accounts Could Increase in 2005, Surveys Indicate
Health savings accounts are "catching on" among some U.S. consumers, but the accounts remain unpopular among employers and currently "aren't on many consumers' radar," according to several recent studies, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Under the new Medicare law, HSAs are available to members of health plans that have a deductible higher than $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for families (Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal, 1/12). Employees, employers or both can contribute as much as a combined $2,600 for individuals and $5,150 for families for HSAs each year (California Healthline, 9/21/04).
About 81 health insurers currently offer high-deductible health plans with HSAs, and the accounts "are now beginning to garner more mainstream acceptance," according to the Florida Times-Union (Gibbons, Florida Times-Union, 1/10).
A recent America's Health Insurance Plans survey, which involved 29 companies that offer high-deductible health plans with HSAs, found that as of September about 438,000 consumers were enrolled in such plans. According to the survey, about 91,500 employees are enrolled in employer-sponsored high-deductible health plans with HSAs, 12,700 of whom work for companies with more than 50 employees.
A second survey, conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide and released on Tuesday, found that of about 1,000 consumers with health insurance, 29% said they had heard of HSAs; more than half said they considered high-deductible health plans "extremely undesirable"; and about two-thirds said a requirement that they make full payments for prescription drugs before they reach the deductible is "extremely undesirable."
However, a survey of 3,000 employers released in the fall by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust found that about 27% of employers said they are "somewhat" or "very" likely to offer high-deductible health plans with HSAs within the next two years.
Karen Ignagni, president of AHIP, said that HSAs have not become popular because the Treasury Department waited until last summer to release information on how employers should administer the accounts. The move left "little time for large companies to make the benefits available in 2005," the Journal reports.
"We already have heard anecdotally from our plans that a number of large employers are going to be working high-deductible health plans into their offerings," Ignagni said, adding that more than 40 health insurers have begun to offer such plans since September (Wall Street Journal, 1/12).