Amid Rising Costs of Health Care, HSAs Provide Relief

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- A new survey from the Commonwealth Fund, a private health policy foundation, paints a grim picture of health care in the U.S. The survey, which included more than 18,000 adults from 11 countries, found that more than a quarter of those surveyed in the U.S. were either unable to pay or had difficulty paying for medical services in the past year.

Furthermore, Americans experienced the worst health care outcomes, despite spending more on health care costs than any other developed nation – approximately $8,000 per person. In comparison, Norway had the second highest spending output at $3,000 per person.

Given the high cost of health care in this country, it’s no wonder Americans are getting creative about their health care spending. One way they’re doing so is through health savings accounts (HSAs), which the IRS defines as a tax-exempt trust or custodial account that you set up with a qualified HSA trustee to pay or reimburse your medical expenses.

What's more, according to the 2011 Employer and Account Holder Surveys, two national surveys by ACS and Buck Consultants of more than 14,000 existing account holders and 300 employers, both groups found cost-saving benefits in HSAs. The results show that small employers, in particular, see HSAs as a good way to control health care costs. In addition, more than half of those surveyed – about 56% – said that HSAs are an “affordable” health care option.

The surveys also show that the average direct cost of an HSA is $5,469 for individual coverage and $9,909 for family coverage. In comparison, the average non-HSA health care plan cost is $7,158 for individuals and $10,691 for a family.

Besides costs, consumers seem to like the control that HSAs give them. The ACS and Buck Consultants data reveals that about 75% of survey respondents said that controlling their health care costs is either an “extremely” or “very” important factor in personal health care management.