Health Savings Account Plans See Brisk Growth

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Enrollment in high-deductible health insurance plans that can help consumers save for medical expenses climbed 14 percent this year and has jumped 87 percent since January 2008, according to the trade association America’s Health Insurance Plans.

A total of 11.4 million people had enrolled in high-deductible plans that are eligible for health savings accounts as of January. That compares to 10 million people in January, 2010, and 6.1 million people at the start of 2008.

High-deductible health insurance plans generally come with premiums lower than traditional coverage, but the patient or customer pays more out of pocket before coverage starts. If the deductibles are at least $1,200 for an individual and $2,400 for a family, the plans can be paired with health savings accounts.

Customers can deposit pretax savings in these accounts, along with employer contributions, to help cover medical expenses. Health savings accounts, or HSAs, entered the market in 2004, and employers have shown growing interest in plans that offer HSAs as they search for ways to corral spiraling health care expenses and make their workers more aware of the costs.

Large-group employers, or those with more than 50 workers, were the fastest-growing market for HSA plans in the past year. California had the highest level of enrollment in HSA plans with nearly 1.1 million people. While enrollment is growing in these plans, coverage with health savings accounts still makes up only about 7 percent of total health insurance enrollment for people under age 65.

America’s Health Insurance Plans spokesman Robert Zirkelbach said the association is concerned about the health care overhaul’s potential impact on these plans. The overhaul aims to cover millions of uninsured people, but it also imposes restrictions on insurers.

In particular, Zirkelbach said these plans could be hurt by a new rule that started this year and essentially requires insurers to spend a certain percentage of premiums on medical care or offer rebates to customers. The association conducts an annual study to track growth in these plans, and this year’s census involved 83 insurers.

The study does not track all high-deductible health plans or those that come with health reimbursement arrangements, which involve only employer contributions to a savings account for medical expenses.

For the full report, visit http://www.ahipresearch.org/pdfs/HSA2011.pdf

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