News with clear eyes. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

Some employers might have qualms about the idea of the federal government setting up a health insurance exchange program, but many large employers are interested in the idea of using “corporate exchanges.”

Consultants at Aon Hewitt, an arm of Aon Corp., Chicago (NYSE:AON), have reported that finding in a summary of results from a survey of about 560 employers.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) is supposed to create a system of government-supervised exchanges, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets, for individuals and small groups starting in 2014.

The PPACA exchanges are not supposed to be open to employers with more than 100 employees at least until 2017.

But 94% of the employers surveyed said they still want to offer health benefits, despite predictions that many employers will choose to pay a relatively modest penalty for not offering coverage rather than continuing to pay for coverage.

About 72% of the employers said they are very or somewhat interested in exploring the idea of using an exchange designed for large employers, and 44% said they might use a corporate exchange to provide employee health benefits in the next 3 to 5 years.

Only 4% of the employers said they now use an exchange to buy health benefits.

HSA STATS

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is reporting solid growth in taxpayer use of health savings accounts (HSAs).

The number of taxpayers taking HSA deductions increased 4.6% between 2009 and 2010, to 925,786, and the total amount deducted increased 11%, to $2.5 billion, according to preliminary 2010 tax data.

The biggest users of the deduction in 2010 were taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $50,000 to $100,000. About 296,000 taxpayers in that income category took HSA deductions.

Taxpayers in the $100,000 to $250,000 income range reported the greatest total HSA deduction value. They reported a total of about $791 million in HSA deductions.

WELLS FARGO HSA STATS

Wells Fargo & Company, San Francisco (NYSE:WFC), says the number of new HSAs its customers opened increased about 38% in 2011, to about 100,000.

Total HSA assets increased about 22%, the bank holding company says.

For HSAs with a balance, the average balance increased 10%, to about $2,500.

The company has about 320,000 individual HSA holders and about 10,000 employer-sponsored HSA program customers.