Consumer Managed Health Care and Health Savings Accounts


The need (HSA’s) May Be the Wave of the Future for reduced health care cost brought about the formation of Health Saving Accounts about four and a half years ago and their use has grown in use by American consumers exponentially. Most consumers will agree that health insurance is too expensive especially if you have a family to cover. Deciding what policy makes the most sense can be confusing regarding co-pays and deductibles, and features because the ones with the most features and lowest deductibles cost the most so you are left with the dilemma of determining how much will you actually use if you pay for all the bells and whistles. This is where the Health Saving Account can make it possible to get great coverage with a reduced premium and have a reserve expense account for when a major medical expense does occur.

Why Use A Health Savings Account?

Most consumers choose health plans with low to medium deductibles and co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs to defray the cash outlay for health related expenses. Deductibles are the amount you the consumer pay before your insurance kicks in to cover the difference. While these traditional plans can ease the pinch on the pocketbook at the initial appointment or at the pharmacy, you actually pay for these features in the form of a higher premiums.

The concept behind Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) is that you choose a plan with a high deductible because plans with higher deductibles have much lower monthly premiums. The savings in premium for the high deductible plan is then placed into a HSA account owned by you. The contributions to the HSA are 100% tax deductible from your income up to the legal limits and the money accumulates tax deferred sort of like an IRA for health care. As long as the money is used for any qualified health care cost then it is also tax free. The best part is the contributions are yours to keep and they continue to accumulate interest. If you change jobs or become self employed the HSA account goes with you, and unlike Flexible Spending Accounts that have the “use it or lose it provision” these accounts do not forfeit your contributions.

Is A Health Savings Account Right For Me?

HSA’s were originally created as a tax deductible medical insurance program with the self employed consumers in mind, but were quickly recognized as a viable solution to better manage health care cost for all Americans. Some advocates believe that HSA’s are geared primarily toward wealthy self employed families in good health who need a low cost plan for any major medical expenses. Clearly it makes more sense for somewhat healthy individuals to benefit more from the cash accumulation than someone who actively is tapping into their insurance because of health issues. The consumer market says these plans are growing in favor within only a few years over 3 million have signed up for HSA plans and that number is expected to be over 30 million by 2010. Determining if an HSA is right for you will require you to consider your current health insurance cost and how you feel about covering the smaller healthcare expenses in exchange for a lower premium. The savings in premium can be substantial and once you have fund accumulation you will have enough to cover doctor visits co-pays prescription and deductibles. The benefits of the HSA are twofold; Lower overall insurance premiums and a self managed tax deductible medical expense account. One of the greatest uses in our current economy with the suffering employment market would be the ability to use a HSA account to fund a short term medical plan for a consumer or family income earner who has lost their employer sponsored health insurance plan.

How Do I Enroll in an Health Savings Account Program?

Most major health insurers such as Assurant, United Health Group Golden Rule and Aetna provide Health Savings Accounts right alongside their traditional medical insurance programs. Agent websites with carrier links will actually spreadsheet the different plans side by side for you to compare. Agents also can provide you a personalized comparison to show how you might save by making the switch from traditional plan to an HSA plan. Many of the carriers have already established bank accounts with debit cards allowing you to sign up for the programs all at the same time.

Health Savings Accounts are clearly a viable option and will likely continue to offer more features and options as more consumers learn about them and employers begin to introduce them. The long term benefit is better managed health care and lower overall cost to consumers.

Chris Beard is a virtual insurance agent providing automated online and tele-service insurance services to protect Florida families with health insurance, HSA’s, life insurance, and short term medical plans. Visit his web site for more information on Health Savings Account Plans.