Health Savings Accounts: Participation Grew, and Many HSA-Eligible Plan Enrollees Did Not Open HSAs while Individuals Who Did Had Higher Incomes

GAO-08-802T Published: May 14, 2008. Publicly Released: May 14, 2008.
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With health care spending increasing, Congress enacted legislation effective in 2004 establishing Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to be coupled with eligible high-deductible health plans. The novel structure of eligible health plans coupled with HSAs has raised questions about who selects them and how they are used. Proponents contend that the lower premiums of the health plans and the tax-free savings potential of HSAs appeal to consumers, while the health plans' high deductibles encourage enrollees to be more astute health care consumers. However, critics are concerned that HSA-eligible plans may attract enrollees who seek lower premiums but lack the resources to contribute to an HSA, and wealthy enrollees who may use the HSA primarily to accumulate tax-advantaged savings. This statement focuses on (1) participation in HSA-eligible high-deductible health plans and HSAs, (2) the income characteristics of HSA account holders, and (3) the funding and use of HSAs. This statement is based primarily on findings from GAO's April 2008 report entitled Health Savings Accounts: Participation Increased and Was More Common among Individuals with Higher Incomes (GAO-08-474R). For that report GAO reviewed industry data on the participation in HSA-eligible plans and HSAs, and analyzed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data on tax filers who claimed deductions for HSAs. The statement also draws on findings from related GAO reports issued in 2006.

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