Washington

The number of consumers purchasing Health Savings Accounts has more than doubled in the last six months to over one million and the number of companies offering them has more than tripled, according to a survey by America’s Health Insurance Plans.

“HSAs are steadily gaining momentum in the marketplace,” says AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni. “HSA-eligible policies now fill an important niche for employers and individual purchasers, and America’s health insurance plans continue to make them a valuable part of the suite of products they offer.”

Over one million people now are covered by the new insurance policies for health savings accounts, more than twice the 438,000 who had them in September 2004, with much of the growth due to employers offering HSAs to their employees.

The study was based on responses to a survey from 99 AHIP members, who collectively represent nearly all of the health insurance plans offering HSA-eligible plans.

Lower premium HSA plans are an important option, particularly for people who might have trouble paying for other types of coverage, Ignagni says, adding that the survey response showed 37% of individual policies were purchased by those who had been previously uninsured. Of the policies sold in the small group market, 27% were sold to employers who did not offer coverage prior to the HSA plan purchase.

HSAs were created by Congress in late 2003 as part of the Medicare drug bill, with subsequent guidance on the specifics of how the plans should work issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

“Most of these plans rely on networks of doctors and hospitals to give consumers access to the same kinds of negotiated discounts available to participants in other health insurance plans, stretching the consumers’ health care dollar and increasing the value of the HSA-eligible plan,” Ignagni says.

HSAs already have outperformed their predecessors, Ignagni notes. Only 40,000 of the prior incarnation, known as Medical Savings Accounts, were established in their first year of availability, and HSAs already have achieved in a year market penetration MSAs did not reach in a decade.