Thursday, January 26, 2006

Health policy: "Prognosis Is Mixed for HSAs"

As the administration announces plans to expand health savings accounts (HSAs), the NYT reports on how HSAs have fared so far: not so good. Snip:
As the plans were conceived, people using their own money could be expected to spend less on health care, switching to lower-cost drugs, for example, and adopting healthier lifestyles. Employers were promised savings as they shifted responsibility to workers for thousands of dollars in costs. Uninsured employees of small companies and self-employed people would be able to set aside pretax dollars for low-cost, limited coverage.
But in many cases, people have evidently signed up not because they are eager to direct their own medical spending but because the plan looked cheap or they had no other insurance option. And at least half of those enrolled have not put money in their health savings accounts. So there will be no money building up for next year's out-of-pocket expenses — a big selling point for these health plans.
UnitedHealth Group, the largest provider of the savings plans, says that of the 24 million people insured under its various types of policies, 654,000 now have health savings plans. But so far, only about half have started setting aside money, a spokesman, Daryl Richard, said.

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