There Are Ways for FSA Holders to Make Use of Their Accounts

With most Americans on lockdown in their homes due to the coronavirus outbreak and elective medical procedures being put on hold, many of those who own a flexible spending account (FSA)—which must be used in the year in which it is taken—are wondering if they will lose out on their savings. With a contribution limit of $2,750, FSA holders are positioned to potentially lose thousands of dollars.

However, some FSA experts note that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded the number of medical devices and medicines FSA holders can use their accounts to buy. Furthermore, changes made by the federal government allow FSA holders to use their FSA dollars to take advantage of telehealth and telemedicine services. Read More: PlanSponsor


More Employers To Offer Only CDH Plans in 2014

More than one in five, or 22%, large employers plan to offer their workers only consumer-driven health plans in 2014 as a cost-control strategy, according to a recent survey of 108 employers by the National Business Group on Health, Modern Healthcare reports. By comparison, 19% of employers offered only CDHPs this year, while about 7% did so in 2009.

According to Modern Healthcare, the appeal of CDHPs for employers is that high-deductible plans are less costly than more-traditional plans, like preferred provider organization plans. Data released last week from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that the average cost of family coverage through CDHPs is nearly $1,500 less per employee than PPOs.

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Satisfaction with CDHP on the Rise

Satisfaction levels are rising for Americans with consumer-driven health plans just as satisfaction — as well as popularity — slip for traditional health plans, according to new research from the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Consumer-driven health plans — and their associated products, such as health savings accounts — are becoming more popular among both employers and employees.

According to analysis from the American Association of Preferred Provider Organizations, enrollment in consumer-directed health plans grew by 19 percent in 2012, increasing from 33 million in 2011 to 39 million last year.

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Consumer Driven Health Care Plans Can Help Reduce Health Care Spending and Make Positive Behavior Changes: HCSC

CHICAGO, June 13, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Consumers enrolled in Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHPs) are more likely to make sustainable, positive behavior change leading to significant health plan spend reductions year over year, according to data studied by Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), operator of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans in Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Members who migrated to CDHP plans – those that have a higher deductible, prompting consumers to be more directly involved with the selection and usage of health care services – reduced their health care spending significantly.

This study is unique because of its focus on tracking individual members who migrated from traditional health plan coverage to CDHP coverage in order to analyze their health care behavior and their health care spending habits both before and after the switch. The data also showed that changes in behavior, including increases in preventive care and use of generic prescriptions, helped contribute to a reduction in health care spending for both employers and members.

The CDHP program, BlueEdge(TM), is offered through the four Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, and includes Health Savings Account (HSA) and Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) options. BlueEdge enrollment surpassed 1.5 million members earlier this year, after experiencing double-digit percentage increases for six straight years.

Key results from the study indicate that, following migration from a traditional non-CDHP plan to a CDHP, on average, the CDHP members studied:

  • were four percent more likely to take advantage of preventive services.
  • reduced health care utilization by an aggregate of more than 12 percent.
  • were 10 percent more likely to fill their prescriptions with generics.
  • spent 24 percent less on inpatient hospital services and eight percent less on outpatient services.
  • had a 12 percent decrease in emergency room visits.
  • reduced combined medical and pharmacy spend by an aggregate of 11 percent

In addition, data showed that employers who offered only a CDHP saw even greater spend reductions – up to an aggregate of 14.4% over the three years following migration from a traditional plan to a CDHP.

“Our BlueEdge CDHP program gives consumers the flexibility and tools to help make positive decisions to reduce their healthcare spend, coupled with broad access to care, award-winning service, comprehensive incentives, wellness and care management programs, and a personalized, engaging health care experience,” said Thomas Meier, Vice President, product development, HCSC. “Our experience finds that CDHP members tend to be more engaged and informed in making better health care decisions.”

This is the second year that HCSC has done this analysis, this year studying more than five years of data for more than 265,000 members (with pharmacy data available on 121,000 of those members). HCSC continues to invest in more consumer focused approaches, adding more robust incentives and value-based insurance design products in 2013 to complement both traditional and CDHP plans.

“Our findings are significant because they indicate both real and potential health care spend reductions. Rather than comparing the utilization of different groups of consumers, we have focused on the utilization changes of members who migrated from traditional plans to CDHP. The fact that we are comparing the same members in both plans allows us to minimize inherent risk differentials,” said Guy McGinnis, Vice President, client analytics, HCSC.

About Health Care Service CorporationHealth Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, is the country’s largest customer-owned health insurer and fourth largest health insurer overall, with more than 13 million members in its Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. HCSC is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, please visit , visit our Facebook page or follow us at .

SOURCE Health Care Service Corporation Helps Benefits Managers Educate Employees about Consumer-Directed Health Plans

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn., Nov 14, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Optum(TM) is offering benefits managers at companies of all sizes free online resources designed to help educate their employees about consumer-directed health plans and tax-advantaged health care accounts.

The resources, available at, provide benefit managers free tools that can be incorporated into their existing open enrollment and health plan education programs to help employees determine if a consumer-directed health plan and a tax-advantaged health care account is the right option for their health care needs. These tools can be used in employee meetings, on company websites, in mailings to employees or posted in the workplace.

An increasing number of employers are offering consumer-directed health plans with a tax-advantaged health care account. The number of people covered by health savings account/high-deductible health plans (HSA/HDHPs) totaled 11.4 million in January 2011, an increase of 14 percent since 2010, according to a survey of U.S. health insurance carriers conducted by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

“Using a tax-advantaged health account is new for many people. We want to help them understand how consumer-directed health plans work so they can make smart choices at enrollment time and thereafter,” said Heidi Sirota, vice president of marketing for OptumHealth Financial Services(SM). “ gives employers a set of easy-to-use tools to share with their employees so they can decide on the best plan for their situations.”

Key resources on include:

— “Two-Minute Answers” videos that introduce the basics of HSAs;

— brief, interactive presentations employees can rewind, pause, and skip ahead to learn about tax-advantaged health accounts;

— live and prerecorded webinars with experts in health accounts;

— brochures and flyers to share in person or online with employees; and

— simple math examples that illustrate the tax savings of a flexible spending account (FSA) and HSA.

OptumHealth’s financial services business manages more than 2.3 million consumer-directed health care accounts and more than $1.3 billion in HSAs and related investment assets at its OptumHealth Bank(SM), Member FDIC. The financial services business also reduces waste and inefficiency in health care by electronically transmitting about $4 billion in payments every month from health plans to nearly 700,000 doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.

About Optum:

Optum is an information and technology-enabled health services company serving the broad health care marketplace, including care providers, plan sponsors, life sciences companies and consumers. Its business units — OptumInsight(TM), OptumHealth(R) and OptumRx(TM) — employ more than 30,000 people worldwide. Visit or for more information.

SOURCE: OptumHealth


Health Savings Accounts Rise to More Than $11.7 Billion in Total Deposits in June

MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) rose to more than $11.7 Billion in June according to a survey and resulting research report conducted by Devenir, an investment firm that specializes in providing investment options for HSAs.

“As we continue to conduct the survey we are finding interesting data points on the HSA marketplace that have not been previously reported at an industry level”

The survey data was collected in July, 2011 and primarily consisted of the top 50 custodians in the health savings account market, with all data being collected for the June 30th period. “As we continue to conduct the survey we are finding interesting data points on the HSA marketplace that have not been previously reported at an industry level,” says Eric Remjeske President and Co-Founder of Devenir.

Key Findings from the Devenir June 2011 survey and research report:

  • Rapid growth. HSAs continue to see strong growth as the total number of HSA accounts rose to 6.3 million with assets totaling $11.7 billion, a year over year increase of 28% for accounts and a 31% increase in assets, as well as 17% growth in assets so far in 2011.
  • Largest custodians hold significant market share. The top 5 custodians hold over $5.3 billion in HSA assets amongst almost 2.7 million accounts, accounting for 45% of all HSA assets.
  • Average account balance grows. The average account balance in 2011 grew to $1,845 from $1,640 at the end 2010, a 12.5% increase. When you eliminate identified zero balance accounts that average rises to $2,016.
  • Contributions and Withdrawals. HSA custodians retained 20% of customer contributions over the past year1.
  • HSA investment dollars continue to grow. HSA investment assets reached an estimated $860 million in June, a 60% year over year increase and are projected to reach $9.1 billion by end of 2015. The average investment account holder has a $12,462 average total balance (Deposit and investment account).

“The industry continues to see strong growth as both employers and individuals recognize the financial and consumer benefits of an HSA,” according to Jon Robb, Lead Research Associate with Devenir. Devenir projects the HSA market to reach $47.3 billion in assets by the end of 2015, a 37% CAGR over the next five years2. Devenir also projects that HSA investment dollars will continue to grow quickly as health savings account user’s balances become larger, representing 19% of all HSA assets by the end of 2015.

1 Estimate derived from Midyear 2011 Devenir HSA survey, press releases, previous market research, and market growth rates.

2 CAGR stands for Compound Annual Growth Rate. Projections are barring any dramatic regulatory or market environment changes.

Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations and assumptions based on historical growth, the economy and other future conditions and forecasts of future events, circumstances and results. As with any projection or forecast, they are inherently susceptible to uncertainty and changes in circumstances.

About Devenir

Devenir, a full-service broker dealer and registered investment advisor based in Minneapolis, is a national leader in providing customized investment solutions to the HSA Custodian marketplace. As an independent investment firm, Devenir offers a host of investment options to suit the unique needs of employers, banks, third party administrators and plan participants. Devenir provides user-friendly and cost-effective investment platforms by integrating quality investment choices with streamlined administrative processing. This solution allows any bank or third party administrator to attach a robust back-end investment option to most health benefit plans.


New 2011 Health Care Benefits Data: High Deductible Plans Demonstrate Savings

BOSTON & ARLINGTON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–HighRoads, the industry leader in employer health care regulation compliance, and the Corporate Executive Board (NYSE: EXBD) (CEB), a leading research and advisory services company, today announced the results of their first joint study on health care benefits plan design data. The combined study from The Lab®, HighRoads’ real-time employer benefits database, shows that employees can save an average of $187 a year in premium savings alone by using a high-deductible consumer-driven health plan (CDHP). Families can save an average of $204 a year by using a CDHP. While CDHP’s provide savings in premiums, and in over-all maximum out-of-pocket exposure, the savings may be too small and the deductible too high relative to traditional Preferred Provider Organization plans (PPOs) and Health Maintenance Organization plans (HMOs) to encourage a larger percentage of employees switching to CDHPs. As such, PPOs still remain the most popular health care plan offering.

“As employee benefits professionals devise their benefit plan designs for 2012, fresh data on average plan designs will provide them with the industry-standard metrics and trends they need to make informed decisions”

The Lab, which includes Fortune 500 benefits data from HighRoads, CEB’s Corporate Leadership Council, and Thomson Reuters Healthcare, is comprised of data from over 10,500 real medical plan designs and rates, representing over 30 million lives.

“The data available through this partnership provides employers with a wealth of information on health care plan designs,” said Ania Krasniewska, senior director, Corporate Executive Board. “Leveraging this robust benchmarking tool, organizations now have the ability to compare their health plans against the national landscape of employers to ensure a best practice approach as they prepare for the Fall open enrollment period.”

Based on a recent data snapshot which shows results for 2011, The Lab reveals the following trends:

1. PPO plans are still the most widely offered employer plans, despite heavy communications around consumerism strategies with high deductible CDHPs. PPOs represent 39% of employer plans. Health Maintenance Organization plans (HMOs) represent 27%. High deductible plans represent 17%.

2. Monthly employee premiums for traditional (non high deductible plans) are consistent across the board, with an average monthly, employee only, premium of $132.11. PPOs are $149.88 per month. HMOs are $132.73 per month. Exclusive Provider Organization plans (EPOs) are $111.36 per month.

3. Monthly employee premiums for CDHPs are much lower, with an average monthly, employee only, premium of $62.14.

4. CDHP plans, for most individual employees and families, offer a lower annual total out-of-pocket cost compared to PPOs. When adding the average out-of-pocket costs for annual premiums, in network deductibles, and health savings account (HSA) contributions (specifically for CDHP plans), the average total annual individual out-of-pocket cost is $2,128 for CDHP plans compared to PPOs which have an annual out-of-pocket cost of $2,315. For families, the average total annual out-of-pocket cost is $5,656 for CDHPs and $5,860 for PPOs.

“As employee benefits professionals devise their benefit plan designs for 2012, fresh data on average plan designs will provide them with the industry-standard metrics and trends they need to make informed decisions,” said Eric Parmenter, Vice President of Consulting, HighRoads. “Data from The Lab shows that employee education around the cost savings possible with CDHP may help many employees reduce their out-of-pocket health care expenses while offering them increased flexibility and control over their health care decisions.”

The recent study also showed average co-pays and coinsurance contributions for in-network primary care physicians and specialists, non-traditional services including chiropractor and physical therapists, and urgent care facilities. Average in-network co-pays are $19 per visit for primary care providers, $31 per visit for specialists, and $103 per visit for emergency room.

To request a complete copy of the report, please contact Petra Marino at

About The Lab

The Lab is the single largest benchmarking repository of health care benefit plan data in the U.S. It provides a number of health care benchmarks including statistics on alternative care, preventative care testing and screening, surgery, maternity, mental health, family planning, prescription drugs, vision and hearing care. Employers use The Lab data to compare their plans with other organizations by industry, geography, company size, plan and employee type.

About HighRoads

The world’s leading employers choose HighRoads to gain complete control over their health care costs and compliance. With HighRoads’ service, employers have online access to benefits plan information and pricing, competitive benefits benchmarks, and complete benefits supply chain management. The privately-held company is headquartered in Woburn, MA. For more information, visit

About the Corporate Executive Board

The Corporate Executive Board drives faster, more effective decision making among the world’s leading executives and business professionals. As the premier, network-based knowledge resource, The Corporate Executive Board provides customers with the authoritative and timely guidance needed to excel in their roles, take decisive action and improve company performance. Powered by an executive network that spans over 50 countries and represents approximately 85 percent of the world’s Fortune 500 companies, The Corporate Executive Board offers unique research insights along with an integrated suite of exclusive tools and resources that enable the world’s most successful organizations to deliver superior business outcomes. For more information, visit


Hatch/Paulsen Introduce Family and Retirement Health Investment Act of 2011

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ranking Member, Senate Finance Committee and Representative Erik Paulsen (R-3rd, MN) have introduced the “Family and Retirement Health Investment Act of 2011.”   The legislation makes a number of changes to strengthen and expand health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs).  Specific provisions in the legislation would:

  • allow a husband and wife to make catch-up contributions to the same HSA;
  • remove the requirement that an individual have a physician’s prescription to obtain HSA or FSA reimbursement for OTC drugs;
  • allow individuals to roll-over up to $500 from their FSA accounts;
  • clarify the use of prescription drugs as preventive care that will not be subject to an HSA-eligible plan deductible;
  • reauthorize the use of Medicaid health opportunity accounts;
  • promote wellness by expanding the definition of qualified medical expenses to encourage more exercise and better diet;
  • allow seniors enrolled in Medicare Part A to continue contributing to their HSAs; and
  • allow for the purchase of low-premium health insurance and long-term care insurance with HSA dollars.

Kevin McKechnie, executive director, ABA’s Health Savings Account Council, said in a statement that the American Bankers Association and ABA’s HSA Council strongly support Senate and House versions of the Family and Retirement Health Investment Act of 2011.

McKechnie said, “The legislation seeks to correct oversights in the current HSA statute to make HSAs available to more Americans, particularly veterans, individuals eligible for TRICARE coverage and individuals that utilize Indian Health Services.  It will also allow seniors to continue to save for future healthcare expenses by enabling Medicare beneficiaries enrolled only in Part A to continue to contribute to their HSA accounts after turning 65.”

Health Plan Innovation Congress Features Unique S.C. BlueCross Member Toolkit

Columbia, S.C. – BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina’s Vicki Whichard presented a case study on its unique online toolkit for members at the World Congress’ Third Annual Health Plan Innovation Congress in Orlando, Fla., this week.

My Health Toolkit®, accessible through a secure website, helps BlueCross members better manage their benefits, make informed treatment and financial decisions, and improve their health.

Part of My Health Toolkit, an enhanced Doctor and Hospital Finder tool that integrates search capabilities, hospital quality data and an innovative cost calculator, was released in the first quarter of 2011. This tool allows members to research costs based on their personal benefits, alongside quality information. It more closely aligns shopping for health care treatment with shopping for any consumer product or service.

“We created My Health Toolkit to give more power to our members to manage their own benefits and health decisions,” said Whichard, who is director of consumer-driven health plans. “We are the first to show a comparison of surgery costs based on recent claims payments and match that to a calculation of the individual member’s out-of-pocket costs in this amazing tool.”

Other tools allow members to check their claims, eligibility and benefits; message customer service; verify authorizations; see how close they are to meeting their deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums; request ID cards; compare benefit plans; compare drug costs; track flexible spending account (FSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA) balances; maintain personal health records; take personal health assessments; and research in a health library.

World Congress events convene CEOs and senior executives from across the health care industry. More information can be obtained on the Health Plan Innovation Congress at
 Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. The only South Carolina-owned and operated health insurance carrier, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina comprises more than 40 companies involved in health insurance services, U.S. DoD health program and Medicare contracts, other insurance and employee benefits services, and a philanthropic foundation that funds programs to improve health care and access to health care for South Carolinians.

Aetna HealthFund Consumer-Directed Plans Save Employers, Consumers Millions of Dollars Each Year

Hartford, Conn., February 28, 2011 — Employers that replaced their traditional health benefits plans with Aetna HealthFund® consumer-directed plans saved $21.5 million over a five-year period for every 10,000 members, based on a recent study of Aetna (NYSE: AET) health care claims and utilization. The study showed that members of consumer-directed plans accessed more preventive care and screenings than people with traditional Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans. In addition, Aetna HealthFund plan members were more engaged health care consumers and continued to get the care they need.

The study, which is the longest-running review of consumer-directed health plans in the industry, included more than 2 million Aetna members. The study compared people with PPOs and those with Aetna HealthFund plans, which consist of Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA). When compared to PPO members, HSA members used online tools to look up cost information nearly three times as often and took a health assessment twice as often.

“Aetna has been on the forefront of the consumer-directed health plan movement since the beginning,” said Aetna CEO and President Mark Bertolini. “The rising cost of health care has been a concern for companies for many years now. We have shown that by working together to engage consumers in their own care and by giving them easy-to-understand tools and actionable information, we can help companies keep their employees healthy and save money.”

While companies that switched completely to Aetna HealthFund plans reaped the highest cost savings, those that offered Aetna HealthFund HRA and HSA plans as one option experienced savings of $9 million over five years for every 10,000 members enrolled in all health plan options.  Among other findings, members in the Aetna HealthFund plans:

  • Spent 12 percent more on preventive care and accessed higher levels of screenings for breast and cervical cancer compared to members in PPO plans. In particular, diabetics in the Aetna HealthFund plans accessed screenings at higher rates than diabetic members in PPO plans;
  • Visited the emergency room for non-urgent care five percent less than members in a PPO plan; and
  • Used the prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, at rates similar to PPO members.

The results also showed that HSAs continue to demonstrate more dramatic savings than HRAs. HSA members had 15 percent lower primary care physician utilization for non-routine visits, which may include a cold or sore throat, 11 percent lower specialist utilization and 9 percent lower overall medical costs in 2009.

The study looked at nearly 2.3 million members, which consisted of 1.8 million members whose employer offered an Aetna HealthFund product but who chose another product, and 498,000 Aetna HealthFund members. The study period extended from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2009.

In addition, this year the study analyzed the impact of plan design on cost savings. Employers that offered plans that required increased member responsibility exhibited the best 2009 total cost trends. Specifically, those who offered Aetna HealthFund plans with deductibles of at least $1,500 for individuals experienced approximately 4 percent lower total cost trend than plans with deductibles that were less than $1,000.

The Aetna HealthFund study also provides employers with examples of how to maximize the potential of their Aetna HealthFund plan, including:

  • Designing a plan that includes appropriate levels of member responsibility;
  • Encouraging employees to enroll in the consumer-directed plan option by lowering the employees’ contribution levels or increasing the amount of funds in the account;
  • Communicating and educating members on how to use the plans; and
  • Offering wellness programs and incentives for healthy behaviors.

For more detailed information about the study, click here.

About Aetna
Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 35.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans.