Share of Consumer-directed Plans Increases Again: Survey

The 2008 Employer Health Benefits Survey released yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) found that the share in consumer-directed plans high-deductible plans that include a tax-preferred savings option such as a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) has increased to 8 percent today from 5 percent last year and 4 percent in 2006.

The study found that an estimated 5.5 million covered workers are enrolled in these plans, including about 3.2 million in plans that would allow the worker to establish an HSA and 2.2 million in plans with an HRA established by the employer.

The study learned that the growth in consumer-directed plans occurred mostly among workers at small firms (three to 199 workers), where 13 percent are now in this type of plan, compared with 8 percent in 2007. In firms with at least 200 employees, 5 percent of workers are enrolled in such plans statistically unchanged from last year.

According to the study premiums for consumer-directed plans are generally lower than for other types of plans, though in addition to the premiums, employers may also contribute money to the savings accounts. On average, firms pay a total of $8,291 annually toward the cost of family coverage for an HSA-qualified plan, including a $1,522 contribution to the account. In comparison, firms on average contribute $9,495 toward the cost of family coverage in non-consumer-directed plans.

Health Plan Innovation Take: Employers continue to adopt consumer-directed health plans to cut costs and they are being rewarded with lower costs – more than four in 10 of employers surveyed say that in their opinion the most successful result of adopting CHDPs has been lower costs. So it is good for employers, it is also good for employees. UnitedHealthcare analyzed more than 200,000 of its 1.4 million members enrolled in an HSA-eligible health plan during the full year 2006 – the latest period for which full year data were available – and found that customers with Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are depositing money into the accounts and accumulating balances, regardless of their income level, age or employer size.

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