Employers seem to be increasing the percentage of workers enrolled in health account plans without spending more on account contributions.

Analysts at United Benefit Advisors (UBA) have reported that finding this week in a summary of results of a survey of 9,950 U.S. health plans that sponsor a total of 16,467 U.S. health plans. UBA is a consortium for benefits firms. The employers that participate are those with a strong enough interest in employee benefits to have a relationship with a UBA member firm.

In 2014, health account plans accounted for 24 percent of all of the plans the participating employers offered and 21 percent of those employers’ covered employees.

Preferred provider organization (PPO) plans without health saving accounts (HSAs) or other health accounts attached ranked first in terms of share. About 48 percent of the employers’ plans were stand-alone PPOs, and those plans covered 59 percent of the employees.

Health maintenance organization (HMO) continued to fade. Only 17 percent of the participating employers’ plans were HMOs, and those plans covered just 12 percent of the employees.

The percentage of employees enrolled in the health account plans rose to 21 percent in 2014, from 16 percent in 2012.

The increase in use of health account plans came as the average employer HSA contribution fell 10 percent from the 2012 average, to $515.

Paul Fronstin and Anne Elmlinger, researchers at the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), wrote about the performance of health account plans earlier this month in a study based on data from a series of online surveys of U.S. adults ages 21 to 64 organized by EBRI and Greenwald & Associates. 

About 15 percent of all U.S. residents with traditional employment-based health benefits had health account plans in 2014, according to the EBRI researchers.

The percentage of survey participants who knew their employers offered them health account plans fell to 35 percent in 2014, from 39 percent in 2012, the researchers say.

The percentage who did not even know whether they were offered health account plans jumped to 34 percent, from 26 percent two years earlier.

The percentage who said they received no employer health account contributions increased to 30 percent, from 27 percent.

The percentage who said their employers contributed $1,000 or more to their health accounts increased to 34 percent, from 28 percent, for employees with single coverage, but fell to 51 percent, from 63 percent, for employees with family coverage.

The EBRI researchers also found evidence for a business reason for health account marketers to promote consumer engagement: 49 percent of the consumers who tried to take steps to be good health care consumers, such asking for a generic drug rather than a brand-name drug, contributed $1,500 or more to their health accounts.

Only 40 percent of the survey participants who reported having no engagement with efforts to be good health care shoppers contributed $1,500 or more.

See also: EBRI: Care Access Improves for Health Account Holders