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 12 months of data for 38,200 consumers who joined CIGNA health plans that added 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.

Costs appeared to be about 16% lower for members of the health account plans than for comparable members of the traditional plans, according to CIGNA researchers.

Excluding the cost of premiums, health account plan members’ share of total plan health care costs fell to 16%, from 19%, in part because of employer health account contributions, the researchers report.

CIGNA researchers found that members of the health account plans were more likely than 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.

The results of the study of 12 months of data appear to be similar to the results of an earlier study of 6 months of health account program data, CIGNA researchers report.