HEALTH

Surveys: HSA utilization on the rise

BY Michael Johnsen

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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Legislation introduced to ‘grandfather’ all supplements up to Jan. 2007

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., last week introduced a bill — the Dietary Supplement Protection Act of 2011 — that would reclassify approximately 25,000 supplements launched between Oct. 15, 1994, and Jan. 1, 2007, as "grandfathered" supplements and not subject to proposed new dietary ingredient regulations.

The Food and Drug Administration recently issued draft guidance on NDIs suggesting that manufacturers would need both proof of prior marketing and proof that present-day manufacturing methods mirror those of manufacturing methods employed before Oct. 15, 1994.

"This standard could be difficult to meet for many dietary ingredients due to the lack of information on manufacturing methods used before the grandfather date," suggested a blog posted Wednesday on the FDA Law Blog site. "Moving the date for grandfather status to Jan. 1, 2007, would reduce the number of dietary ingredients for which the manufacturing method may have changed, and reduce the chance that industry no longer possesses information about the manufacturing method for a grandfathered dietary ingredient."

The bill (H.R. 3380) was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Nov. 4.


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Interclick flu survey: 42% of Americans to seek flu shot

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — According to the most recent consumer snapshot survey by Interclick, 42% of Americans are planning to be immunized this year.

The survey, released Wednesday, explores consumer behaviors ahead of flu season, including sentiment on the shots, preferred treatment brands and where they go for the latest news on the flu.

This year, nearly half of Americans plan on receiving the shot in hopes of warding off the flu, with a quarter reporting they do so annually. More women than men will roll up their sleeves, with 46% of females versus 38% of males planning to get the shot. Of those who opt out of the shot, consumers who identify themselves as not getting sick often or those who have never had the flu are less likely to receive the shot.

When it comes to finding information about the flu, the Internet is the new doctor’s office for younger generations. While adults older than 35 years generally turn to their doctors as expert sources, consumers 18 to 35 years trust doctors and online sources at nearly the same rate. In addition to younger generations, women also are visiting the Internet for health information, with more than 1-in-4 primarily going online to answer their flu questions. Overall, online sources came in second as a resource for flu-concerned consumers (33%), trailing slightly to television (40%).

Once sidelined by the flu, 2-in-3 consumers thought of flu-specific brands, while 20% first thought of pain-relief medications, such as aspirins or acetaminophen.

Interclick, in partnership with KN Dimestore, fielded the study in October 2011 to survey nearly 1,300 respondents about the flu. To view this survey and future audience insight surveys go to Interclick.com/FluSeason.

 


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