NU Online News Service, Jan. 25, 2:05 p.m. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn., has introduced MSA Blue, a health plan for small businesses that combines a high-deductible health benefit plan with an interest-bearing, federally qualified medical savings account.

Minnesota Blue is selling the MSA plan through its agent network and its own sales representatives.

The new plan allows employers and self-employed individuals to contribute up to 65% of their plan deductible for single coverage to a tax-deductible personal account, according to Kathy Kelly, head of product management at Minnesota Blue.

The employee can then withdraw the money as needed to pay for health care expenses.

The individual must cover any amount remaining on the deductible.

For 2002, employees can choose between three deductibles: $1,650, $2,100 and $2,500 for single coverage, Minnesota Blue says. For family coverage, the deductible is roughly twice as much.

Meanwhile, 4.5% interest accrues on the account assets. Because the account is owned by the individual, the account is portable.

Once the deductible is met, members are covered by a standard health plan, with the insurance plan paying either 80% or 100% after the deductible is met, Minnesota Blue says.

MSA Blue became available to small groups Jan. 1. Minnesota Blue will make it available to self-employed individuals April 1.