Those in Consumer-driven Health Plans More Educated, Healthier, Wealthier

Those enrolled in “consumer-driven” health plans tend to have higher incomes, higher educational levels, and report better health behavior than do those in traditional health plans, according to a new report by EBRI that examines trends over the 2005–2011 period.

Consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) generally consist of high-deductible health plans (HDHP) with either a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) or Health Savings Account (HSA). As of 2011, roughly 21 million individuals, representing about 12 percent of the market, were either in a CDHP or an HSA-eligible health plan.

The full report, “Characteristics of the Population With Consumer-Driven and High-Deductible Health Plans, 2005–2011,” is published in the April 2012 EBRI Notes. The press release is online here.

Employer Contributions to Health Accounts Falling as Individual Contributions Rise

Enrollment in health savings accounts (HSAs) and heath reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) continues to grow, but contribution patterns to these account-based health plans are changing, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

Collectively, HSAs and HRAs are known as “consumer-driven” health plans. According to the latest EBRI/MGA Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey, there was $12.4 billion in HSAs and HRAs, spread across 8.4 million accounts in 2011. This is up from 2006, when there were 1.3 million accounts with $873.4 million in assets, and 2010, when 5.4 million accounts held $7.3 billion in assets. This growth reflects the increasing number of employers that offer these account-based health plans.

The EBRI survey found that about two-thirds of workers with an HRA or HSA reported that their employer contributed to their account in 2011, a level that has remained steady since 2006. However, employer contribution levels have declined for some enrollees.

Specifically, for those with employee-only coverage in these plans, annual contributions from their employer have fallen since 2008: The percentage reporting that their employer contributed $1,000 or more to the account dropped from 37 percent in 2008 to 24 percent in 2011. Employer contributions of $1,000 or more to those with family coverage remained steady at 64 percent, EBRI found.

By contrast, individuals’ contributions to HSA plans have increased: the percentage contributing $1,500 or more increased from 21 percent in 2006 to 44 percent in 2011.

The full report is published in the February 2012 EBRI Notes, online here. The press release is online here.

EBRI’s Health Savings Account Data in NYTimes

The Feb. 1 New York Times’ “Makng the Most of Your Money” column (“Bucks”) featured results from the January EBRI Issue Brief on health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

New York Times, Feb. 1, 2011

The article notes:

“According to the results, there is some evidence that consumers with the accounts are more likely to engage in certain cost-conscious behaviors than those without the accounts. Specifically, those with the accounts appear more likely to check whether the plan would cover care, more likely to ask for a generic drug, more likely to have a budget and more likely to check the price of service.

“On the other hand, the researchers also found that there are certain cost-conscious behaviors that those with the accounts don’t appear any more likely to engage in than those without the accounts. These included talking to a doctor about prescriptions and costs, asking a doctor to recommend a less costly drug and checking the quality rating of a hospital or doctor.”

The full Times article is online here.

The full EBRI report is online here.

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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