Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lagniappe: I Stand Corrected (Sorta)

In the first post of my recent HRA-HSA series, I stated that there were no hard numbers identifying just how many HSA plans had been sold to date. That statement was made based on an exhaustive search of relevant government sites, but I failed to take into account the resourcefulness of my own industry.
To wit: America’s Health Insurance Plans (the carriers’ association and lobbying group) has completed a survey of their membership, and found some surprising information. According to AHIP’s report, more than a million Americans are covered by HSA-eligible medical plans. This represents a more than two-fold increase over the number of such folks only 8 months previously.
Even more remarkably, the study indicates that some 37% of those purchasing these plans were previously uninsured; that’s one good way to lower the overall number of uninsureds. And over a quarter of the group HSA plans were sold to employers who had not previously offered medical coverage.
Another common misconception with High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) is that they’re only attractive to young, healthy individuals. But the study showed that almost half of the purchasers were over 40 years old (not exactly Medicare-fodder, but not quite spring chickens, either).
These are, of course, numbers reported by carriers, and not the gummint, so they may or may not reflect the true picture. But they’re instructive, nonetheless. My only real beef is with two numbers that are not reported:
First, there’s no breakdown by income level. This is important, because one of the objections to MSA/HSA has been that they appeal primarily to the affluent, and are typically rejected by “Joe Sixpack.” It would be nice to test the accuracy of that claim.
Second, while there are plenty of premium figures tossed around, there’s no way to tell the difference between what a group paid last year for their generic co-pay plan and how much they save (and are putting into accounts) by switching.
If and/or when those numbers become available, I’ll let you know.
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