Offering group health plan members a health reimbursement arrangement or health savings account program does seem to hold down costs, an insurer reports.

Researchers at Aetna Inc., Hartford, have published that assessment in an analysis based on a comparison of 410,000 consumers enrolled Aetna health account plans and 2.2 million consumers enrolled in other types of Aetna health plans.

Over a 5-year period, offering a health account plan as the only health account plan option helped employers save an average of about $2,100 per plan member, Aetna says.

When employers offered a health account plan option alongside one or more traditional plan options, savings averaged about $700 per plan member, the company estimates.

The health account plan members were at least as likely as members of traditional plans to get preventive care, such as screenings for diabetes, but they were 15% less likely to use specialist care, Aetna says.