Health savings accounts keeping costs down

Health savings accounts (HSAs) not only do a better job of making workers aware of costs than do health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), but they also drive more employees into wellness programs, according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald & Associates. Although the two accounts are similar, the differences between HSAs and HRAs are beginning to be seen in the choices workers make and the way they make them.

The HSA, a feature of many high-deductible health plans, is owned by the individual and is portable. “In contrast, an HRA is an employer-funded health plan that reimburses employees for qualified medical expenses,” the study says. Whether leftover funds can be carried over is the employer’s call. Also, the employer does not have to hand what’s left to an employee when he or she leaves the company.

“Ultimately, an HSA creates a stronger financial incentive than an HRA for workers to be more engaged in their health care because the account is owned by the worker and completely portable upon job change,” the study states. Those with HSAs are also more likely to research and ask questions about costs and participate in wellness programs.

The data for all graphs were collected from surveys of more than 2,000 adults and conducted between Aug. 8 and Aug. 10, 2013. Source: “Consumer Engagement Among HSA and HRA Enrollees: Findings From the 2013 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey,” Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald & Associates.