Individuals who are buying high-deductible health insurance plans seem to be getting good packages of benefits for a reasonably low price.[@@]

Researchers at eHealthInsurance Services Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., a Web-based health insurance broker, have published data supporting that conclusion in a study based on data drawn from the broker’s sales records.

Thousands of customers bought high-deductible individual and family health policies that were compatible with the new health savings account program in 2004, eHealthInsurance researchers report.

Purchasers of the insurance plans are eligible to deduct thousands of dollars in annual contributions to the health savings accounts themselves, which are separate from the plans.

EHealthInsurance is not providing information about topics such as the percentage of applicants who were declined, but company researchers note that 48.9% of the HSA plan purchasers were age 40 or older. Only 34.5% of the purchasers of the conventional health insurance plans were over age 39.

The fact that purchasers of HSA-compatible plans tend to be older than other health coverage purchasers “may represent the level of understanding and interest in tax planning and long-term savings of many people further along in their careers,” the eHealthInsurance researchers write.

In an effort to encourage HSA plan purchasers to shop carefully for care and avoid seeking unnecessary care, the federal government has imposed strict, complicated limits on the coverage HSA-compatible plans can offer.

But eHealthInsurance researchers write that 99.4% of the HSA-compatible plans it sold included some kind of prescription drug coverage, and 85.4% included some coverage for doctor visits.

The average monthly cost for HSA-compatible plans was $137.94 for individuals and $277.45 for families, and 89% of HSA-compatible plan holders are paying less than $200 per person per month for coverage, the researchers write.