Many U.S. employers may bethinking about adding personal accounts to their health plans.[@@]

Researchers with the consulting arm of Aon Corp., Chicago, and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists, Brookfield, Wis., have published figures supporting that conclusion in a report on a survey of 208 benefits managers conducted in January.

All of the survey participants were benefit specialists society members. They work at employers at all sizes, but the fact that they are active enough in the society to complete the questionnaire may mean that they and their employers are more interested in new benefits ideas than the typical human resources executive or the typical company.

But the survey showed that 22% of society members’ employers already offer health plans that include health reimbursement arrangements or health savings accounts.

HRAs give employers full control over account assets and appeal to employers that prefer to use health insurance policies with relatively low deductibles.

HSAs offer employers and employees better tax breaks, but employers have less control over account assets, and employers must combine HSAs with health insurance policies that come with individual deductibles of at least $1,000.

Today, 65% of the employers included in the survey that have personal health account programs offer only HRAs, 15% offer only HSAs, and 15% offer both HRAs and HSAs, according to the health account survey.

But employers that are thinking about adding health accounts in the future seem to be more interested in HSAs, the researchers report.

About 49% of the employers included in the survey are thinking seriously about adding health account programs.

Although 11% of the participants say their employers want to offer HRAs, or a choice between HRAs and HSAs, 28% say their employers are interested only in setting up HSA programs.