Surveys: HSA utilization on the rise

DALLAS — Employers and consumers alike are adopting health savings accounts as a viable way to manage their healthcare costs without compromising care, according to two national surveys released Thursday.

The “2011 Employer and Account Holder Surveys,” commissioned by ACS and conducted by Buck Consultants, which both are Xerox companies, showed 77% of small employers believed that high-deductible health plans with an HSA are key in controlling healthcare costs. Additionally, more than half (56%) of account holders have found that their HSA-qualified plan provides an affordable healthcare option.

“This year’s survey results reveal an interesting phenomenon — HSAs are doing more than just saving consumers and employers money. They are prompting a shift in behavior that is helping employees make better decisions about their own health care,” stated Tom Hricik, principal for the ACS | HSA Solution.

The surveys found that HSAs put consumers in the driver’s seat when it comes to managing their health services and care. Three-quarters of respondents said the ability personally to control their own health costs is an “extremely” or “very” important benefit of HSAs. Not only are account holders setting aside more money than before they had an HSA to cover potential medical costs (54%), but they also are engaging in healthier lifestyle choices (18%), researching preventive care programs (18%), shopping for lower-priced prescription drugs (28%) and planning health care better throughout the year (31%). Individuals perceived that they consume medical services at approximately the same rate but are shopping for care more than before.

Employers report that the cost of providing HSA-qualified plans is less than the cost of providing a standard preferred provider organization. The average direct cost to provide an HDHP/HSA is $5,469 for individual coverage and $9,909 for family coverage. The compared with the average PPO cost of $7,158 for individuals and $10,691 for family.

Hricik said surveyed employers are extremely committed to offering employer-sponsored health insurance for the foreseeable future, and are equally committed to retain their HSA-qualified plans. Only 6% stated that they are at least very likely to discontinue offering the HSA-qualified plan in the future. And, only 7% of employers stated that they would be at least very likely to move employees to future healthcare exchanges.

Other significant findings include:
2011 Employer Survey:

  • The average employer that implemented an HDHP and HSA program has 49% of eligible employees enrolled in the HDHP;

  • 69% of employer respondents contributed to their employees’ HSA accounts; and

  • Employers’ contributions to HSAs average $1,000 for individual coverage and $1,500 for family coverage.

2011 Account Holder Survey:

  • 72% of account holders indicated that they actively chose the HSA-qualified plan although other plan options exist for them;

  • 82% of account holders surveyed reported that the ability to save tax-free money was “extremely” or “very” important in selecting an HSA-qualified plan;

  • 79% of respondents stated that having an HSA is valuable to them; and

  • 64% of respondents stated that their HDHP/HSA combination meets their family’s needs.

These surveys, commissioned in the fall of this year by ACS and conducted by Buck Consultants, generated more than 14,000 existing account holder and 300 employer responses.

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