According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a nonpartisan and nonprofit research group, both health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) are having a period of renewed growth after a drop during the economic recession. The average account balance has increased over the past two years, as well. Results from the 2012 EBRI-sponsored Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey indicated that the average account balances for HSAs and HRAs were level between 2008 and 2009 but fell in 2010. Having increased in 2011 through to 2012, the survey reports that the average rebound was up a full 9% increase from 2010 into 2011 and a further 4% in 2012. Meanwhile, 2012 brought $17.8 billion in HSAs and HRAs across approximately 11.6 million accounts – up from 2006 when the numbers were 1.3 million accounts and $873.4 million in balances.
According to the EBRI, HSAs and HRAs are relatively new types of tax-advantaged accounts, only appearing in the workplace a little over a decade ago. Considering “consumer-driven” health plans, they give holders better control over funding for health care services, leading to what proponents call more responsible spending. Interestingly, the EBRI found that certain health behaviors had very little to do with how high account balances were for HSAs and HRAs. For instance, Paul Fronstin, the author of the EBRI report, noted that some smokers had more money in their accounts than those who didn’t smoke. Exercise had little discernable effect.
Alongside an effective workplace wellness program, an HSA – which are paired with a high deductible health plan (HDHP) – could inspire both better health and health responsibility in workers. A HDHP features higher deductibles than traditional health plans, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, but workers are able to offset that cost with the funds in their HSA.