Health Savings Accounts Growing in Popularity

Almost half of U.S. business owners recently surveyed said they now have in place health plans like health savings accounts (HSAs) or would soon offer them.

Of the 316 employers polled, 43% said they currently offer their employees a so-called consumer-driven health plan (22%), or will be offering one in the next two years (21%), according to a survey released This week by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

Another 51% of businesses said that they are reviewing consumer-driven health insurance plans and may offer one in the near future if the plans have employee appeal and appear to save money.

The survey also showed that, while the newer HSAs are catching on in the marketplace, health reimbursement accounts, which debuted about three years ago, remain the most popular among employers.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they offer their staff an HRA, compared to 31% who offer HSAs.

“By offering consumer-driven health plans, businesses believe they will reduce spending by making employees smarter shoppers for health care,” said Tommy G. Thompson, independent chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. “These plans are increasingly attractive as health care costs continue to threaten companies’ bottom lines.”

The survey also found:

— 77% said they expect consumer-driven plans to change employee purchasing patterns by making them aware of the true cost of healthcare, while 8% said they will not.

— 56% said that consumer plans will result in immediate cost savings for employers, while 27% said they will not.

— 43% said that consumer plans will reduce rising health care costs long-term, especially the cost of health insurance, while 24% disagreed.

— 51% said that their employees are satisfied with the plans, while 15% said employees were dissatisfied, and 33% said they were neither.

— 71% said senior management is satisfied with the plans, while 3 percent said senior management is dissatisfied, and 26% said they are neutral.

The survey’s findings are no surprise, Mohit Ghose, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, told United Press International. “They’re a good sign that employers are looking at the entire choice of products health plans are putting out there,” he said.

AHIP’s own survey of the health plans’ market penetration showed that, as of March, employer HSAs had enrolled more than 1 million beneficiaries. Specifically, 1,031,000 people were enrolled in HSAs/high-deductible health plans at that time, more than double the September 2004 coverage of 438,000.

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