New HSA Resources Provide Info to Consumers

Published October 1, 2005

HSAs en Español

In remarks to the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce in Oakland August 26, U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral announced the release of a new Spanish-language brochure to help Spanish speakers better understand how Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) work.

Escobedo Cabral also spoke about affordable health insurance. “The most important thing, economically, for anyone is to have a job, and we’re seeing that happen. An improving economy also leads to higher real wages and income. More jobs lead to more people being covered by health insurance and retirement plans as well,” Escobedo Cabral told the conference attendees.

“The rising cost of health care is a burden for individuals and families, and it has a huge impact on our economy,” Escobedo Cabral said. “For Hispanics, and for all Americans, affordable health insurance is a top priority.”

HSAs Increase Affordability

Escobedo Cabral spoke of President George W. Bush’s signing into law the 2003 bill authorizing Health Savings Accounts and explained the concept of a high-deductible health care plan.

“A high-deductible health care plan is offered at premiums that are dramatically lower than plans with lower deductibles, making them much more affordable. By using money in your tax-free Health Savings Account to help pay the higher deductible or any other health expenses, you reduce the cost of your health care.”

She described how instead of sending money to insurance companies in the form of higher premiums, families can keep their savings in an account that belongs to them, not to their employer or to an insurance company. “In short, HSAs bring the cost of purchasing quality health insurance more within reach.”

Market Forces Lower Costs

“An HSA plan puts consumers back in charge of their health care spending,” Escobedo Cabral said. “One of the reasons health care prices are so high is that consumers with traditional ‘first dollar’ health insurance don’t have any idea what they are spending on health care because it seems like someone else is paying. But this comes at a price of higher premiums that everyone pays.

“For those that have health insurance provided by their employers already, it may sound like a good deal,” Escobedo Cabral noted. “But the fact that consumers in these sorts of plans aren’t making informed choices about how their health care dollars are spent causes prices to rise. There are no market forces to encourage lower prices and better service. The high prices that are created are passed along as higher premiums.

“The result is a very bad deal for those who don’t have health insurance already and higher health insurance costs for everyone,” Escobedo Cabral concluded.

More than 30 percent of Hispanics are without health insurance coverage, she said, noting, “Health Savings Accounts are a great way to get good health insurance at an affordable price.”

She also suggested allowing small businesses to band together and purchase health insurance at lower costs through Association Health Plans.

New HSA Answer Book Available

A new book to help employers evaluate health savings accounts (HSAs) and make informed decisions about the plans has been released by Aspen Publishers.

The Health Savings Account Answer Book explains HSAs, how they work with high-deductible health plans, how they affect employees, and how they can save money for employers.

In Q&A format, it answers more than 400 questions on all aspects of HSA establishment, administration, and compliance. Topics include rules and penalties, medical coverage, contributions and deductions, distributions, rollovers and transfers, fiduciaries, filing requirements, and more.

Employers ‘Eager for Information’

Although consumer-driven health care plans have been available for several years, the 2003 federal legislation authorizing HSAs has spurred additional interest in the concept. The number of employers offering HSAs as a health care option is growing, and most employers are eager for information on the topic.

“The explosive growth of HSAs in 2005 is being caused in part by the many positive articles in the general press, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post, among others. National Public Radio also recently ran a positive segment on HSAs,” said Gary L. Lesser, one of the co-authors of the Health Savings Account Answer Book, in a release announcing the book’s availability.

“This is exactly what happened with 401(k) plans in the 1980s,” Lesser continued. “They took off when the general press started publishing positive articles about them.

“As they consider health plan decisions for 2006, employers are eager for information about consumer-driven health care plans and HSAs in particular, especially since the federal government is encouraging federal employees to enroll in these programs,” said Lesser.

Susan Konig ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News.

For more information …

The Spanish-language HSAs brochure can be downloaded free of charge from the U.S. Treasury Web site at

Aspen Publishers’ Health Savings Account Answer Book (ISBN 0735556776) can be ordered online at It has a list price of $199.