Provider Networks, Premiums Key Factors in Health Plan Choice

When given a choice, most individuals with traditional health coverage say they chose that option because it offered a good network of providers, according to new findings by EBRI.

In contrast, among those with so-called consumer-driven health plans, most cited the lower premiums and opportunity to save money in a health account.

While close to half of all private-sector workers who have health insurance are offered a choice of health plans, most of those with a choice work for large firms, according to the report.

“Most Americans get their health insurance coverage from employment-based plans, yet most employers do not offer a choice of health plans,” said Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program and author of the report. “Health plan choices are likely to expand via the expansion of insurance exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, so it’s important to know how people make their decisions when they do have a choice.”

The EBRI analysis examines issues related to private health insurance exchanges (an integral component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or PPACA), possible structures of an exchange, and funding, as well as the pros and cons of adopting them. A summary of recent surveys on employer attitudes are examined, as are other benefit program changes that might serve as historical precedents for a move to some type of defined contribution health benefits approach.

Full results of the report are published in the July EBRI Notes, “Health Plan Choice: Findings from the 2011 EBRI/MGA Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey.”  

 The Employee Benefit Research Institute is a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute based in Washington, DC, that focuses on health, savings, retirement, and economic security issues. EBRI does not lobby and does not take policy positions. The work of EBRI is made possible by funding from its members and sponsors, which includes a broad range of public, private, for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

EBRI: HSAs, HRAs Continue to Grow

The number of health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) increased to 5.7 million in 2010, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). Assets in these account-based health plans increased to $7.7 billion in 2010.

HSAs and HRAs can be used to reimburse participants for qualified medical expenses. They are offered by some employers in order to give their workers more control over funds allocated for health care services.

Growth in these accounts is tracked by the EBRI/MGA 2010 Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey, which also examines numerous other aspects about health care consumers who use these plans, in comparison with traditional health plans.

The findings are published in the January 2011 EBRI Issue Brief, “Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements: Assets, Account Balances, and Rollovers, 2006–2010,”

The press release is online here. The full report is online here.

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