If you have an employer client who is concerned about keeping costs down (or keeping employees healthy), you may want to look at some recent studies that suggest that individuals in HRAs are healthier.

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

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

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, according to a GAO director. However, the same director warns that the results are not useful beyond the enrollees, health plans, and employers included in the review.

However, research from the National Center for Health Statistics indicates that people who use HSAs and FSAs access care more often than users of traditional plans. They visited the dentist more, were more likely to get the flu vaccine, they see their eye doctor, and – most importantly – they are more likely to report unmet medical or prescription drug needs. This gives more clout to the idea that consumer-directed health care plan participants are, overall, more healthy.

So what does this mean for employers? A healthier population can keep costs down overall, and CDHPs are a great cost-saver to begin with. Plus, employees who are healthy show up to work, and are more productive when they’re at work.

Sounds like a win-win situation all around.