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GAO: HRA Option Attracted Healthier Workers

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U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) officials say they found workers who signed up for the health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) option at two large employers were probably healthier than other employees.

GAO analysts looked at health benefits programs at one large private employer and one large government employer that gave the employees a choice of signing up for traditional preferred provider organization health insurance and a high-deductible health insurance plan that gave the employees access to HRA health accounts.

The results of the study do not very mean very much, John Dicken, a GAO director, writes to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., chairman of that committee’s health subcommittee.

“The results of our analyses are not generalizable beyond the enrollees, health plans, and employers included in our review,” Dicken warns. “The results of our employer analyses cannot be compared between the public and private employers.”

But the employees who choose the HRA option at each employer appeared to be healthier than the other employees, and their plan costs increased more slowly than costs for the other employees, Dicken says.

At the public employer, average annual costs appeared to increase $478 for each HRA enrollee and $879 for each traditional plan enrollee.

At the private employer, the average increase was $152 for each HRA enrollee and $206 for each traditional plan enrollee.