New data show 13.5 million people are now covered by consumer-driven health plans offering Health Savings Accounts, a sharp increase from the previous year.
According to the annual census released in May by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), HSA-based plans have increased 18 percent over last year. But people who choose those plans could be forced off of them if rules built into Obamacare go into effect, according to Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute.
“In the latest report, over 13 million people now have chosen to go with an HSA. This shows the growing popularity of this type of plan, as more and more people see that it makes economic sense,” said Turner. “The real threat is that Obamacare’s rules and regulations will make it increasingly difficult for companies to offer and for individuals to buy this kind of health insurance.”
Identifying Growth Source
Though the survey showed the largest percentage increase for HSA use came within large group plans, Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said that is somewhat misleading.
“I think you’re looking at a continued incremental growth trend,” Haislmaier said. However, he added, “It’s hard to tell from this study where the growth actually comes in. The problem is the definition they’re using for Large Group is basically ‘Anything that isn’t Small Group.'”
“I suspect what’s going on is you probably have firms in the 50-200 employees range that have moved over to HSAs,” Haislmaier said.
More Room to Grow
Paul Fronstin, director of the health care research and education program at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, says employers are trying on new options.
“I think it is still driven by employer experimentation with different plan designs. You haven’t seen large employers cut back on other plan types, and I don’t think the exceptions—and there are some—represent a trend yet, or at least it’s too early to tell,” Fronstin said. “The fact is that after 10 years of consumer driven health plans, enrollment is still only in the teens, so there is only room to go up.”
Turner says the history of the HSA marketplace makes her optimistic about continued growth.
“Early on, adoption of this type of insurance came first in the individual and small group markets, because these buyers can make rapid decisions,” Turner said. “We always knew that the large companies were going to take longer than individuals and small companies to adopt HSAs. Large companies have longer timelines for making these decisions. As companies have begun to offer them to their employees, they have become increasingly popular in the large group market as well.”
“January 2012 Census Shows 13.5 Million People Covered by Health Savings Account/High-Deductible Health Plans (HSA/HDHPs,” America’s Health Insurance Plans, Center for Policy and Research: http://www.ahip.org/HSA2012/