CIGNA HealthCare says health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements seem to be helping to hold down claims costs.

Researchers at CIGNA HealthCare, Bloomfield, Conn., a unit of CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia, studied 42,200 consumers who joined CIGNA health plans that incorporated HSAs or HRAs in 2005.

The researchers compared the claims the consumers filed in 2005 with the claims the same consumers filed while enrolled in traditional CIGNA health plans in 2004.

The researchers also compared the health account plan members with similar members who were enrolled in traditional CIGNA health plans in 2005.

Excluding prescription drug costs, total medical costs rose 4% for members of traditional CIGNA plans in 2005 and fell 8% for members of the health account plans, according to CIGNA researchers.

Members of the health account plans used inpatient and outpatient care more often in 2005 than in 2004, but claims fell because the cost of inpatient care fell 5% and the cost of the outpatient care dropped 12%, CIGNA researchers report.

CIGNA researchers found that members of the health account plans were more likely that members of traditional plans to use medications prescribed to treat conditions such as high cholesterol levels but less likely to use prescription migraine drugs and ulcer drugs.