Thursday, October 23, 2008

Health/Insurance Trends: Fall Edition

[Welcome Industry Radar readers!]

First up, Health Savings Accounts (HSA's) take a bounce:
UnitedHealthcare, which has certainly earned our disdain over the years, redeems itself with some timely and useful information about HSA market penetration. They studied the claims activities of over 200,000 of their HSA clients for a full year, and then drew some conclusions based on that information.
Since they used 2006 as their benchmark year, all the numbers in the study reflect experience with employer-based (i.e. group) plans; their purchase of Golden Rule, and thus its book of individual clients, wasn't part of this.
And remember, the typical HSA plan comprises two separate components: a high deductible health plan (insurance) and a health savings account (money). Just because one buys the insurance plan doesn't mean that one also opens up the savings account. But according to the study, employees whose employers seeded the accounts were 6 times more likely to open one than those whose employers simply made it available.
This makes sense: employees saw value in something which their employers were willing to at least partially fund; and of course, no one wants to leave their employer's cash on the table.
Something else interesting, and this mirrors my own experience, is that small employers seem to have adopted these plans in much bigger proportions than larger ones.
One other terrific piece of news: it apears that we can finally put to rest the canard that such plans appeal more to higher income folks than to "Joe the Plumber." Turns out, a higher percentage of folks making under $25,000 a year signed up for an HSA plan than folks pulling down $100,000 or more.
UPDATE: Bob has more on this, including two terrific videos with extraordinary insights from non-insurance folks.
One of the benefits of High Deductible plans, especially HSA compliant ones, is lower rates. But plan design is only one factor in that equation; reducing utilization and claims can really help, as well. And one way to reduce health care costs is by making healthier lifestyle choices.
Or having them made for you:
Frankly, I think that this is a good thing: although I'm not a proponent of government initiatives that require private enterprises to be smoke-free, I certainly agree that it's in their best interest to do so. And helping the bottom line is one more benefit of going that route.
[Hat Tip: Holly Robinson]
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