Health Savings Accounts Prove Increasingly Attractive Option

Employers and employees alike have found a more affordable health care option in health savings accounts, according to two national surveys released last week.

The surveys, commissioned by ACS, an IT and BPO firm, show that 77% of employers believe that high-deductible health plans with an HSA are

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key in controlling health care costs. Additionally, more than 56% of account holders have found that their HSA-qualified plan provides an affordable health care option.

“This year’s survey results reveal an interesting phenomenon — HSAs are doing more than just saving consumers and employers money. They are prompting a shift in behavior that is helping employees make better decisions about their own health care,” says Tom Hricik, principal with ACS.

Three-quarters of respondents say the ability to control their own health costs personally is an “extremely” or “very” important benefit of HSAs. Not only are account holders setting aside more money than before they had an HSA to cover potential medical costs (54%), but they are also engaging in healthier lifestyle choices (18%), researching preventive care programs (18%), shopping for lower priced prescription drugs (28%) and planning health

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care better throughout the year (31%).

Individuals perceive that they consume medical services at approximately the same rate but are shopping for care more than before.

HDHPs are less costly to employers for both individual and family coverage. Employers report that the cost of providing HSA-qualified plans is less than the cost of providing a standard preferred provider organization. The average direct cost to provide an HDHP/HSA is $5,469 for individual coverage and $9,909 for family coverage. In comparison, the average PPO cost is $7,158 for individuals and $10,691 for family.

These positive trends in cost savings and account holder behavior make it easier for employers to continue offering competitive health care options for employees, says Hricik. Only 6% stated that they are at least very likely to discontinue offering the HSA-qualified plan in the future. And, only 7% of employers stated that they would be at least very likely to move employees to future health care exchanges.

Other significant findings include:

  • The average employer that implemented an HDHP and HSA program has 49% of eligible employees enrolled in the HDHP.
  • 69% of employer respondents contributed to their employees’ HSA accounts.
  • 72% of account holders indicated that they actively chose the HSA-qualified plan although other plan options exist for them.
  • 82% of account holders surveyed reported that the ability to save tax-free money was “extremely” or “very” important in selecting an HSA-qualified plan.

These surveys, commissioned in the fall of 2011 by ACS and conducted by Buck Consultants, both of which are Xerox companies, generated more than 14,000 existing account holder and 300 employer responses. The surveys are the largest ever conducted on the subject of HDHPs and HSAs.

Reprinted from Employee Benefit News

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