Health Savings Accounts – An American Innovation in Health Insurance

INTRODUCTON – The term “health insurance” is commonly used in the United States to describe any program that helps pay for medical expenses, whether through privately purchased insurance, social insurance or a non-insurance social welfare program funded by the government. Synonyms for this usage include “health coverage,” “health care coverage” and “health benefits” and “medical insurance.” In a more technical sense, the term is used to describe any form of insurance that provides protection against injury or illness.

In America, the health insurance industry has changed rapidly during the last few decades. In the 1970’s most people who had health insurance had indemnity insurance. Indemnity insurance is often called fee-forservice. It is the traditional health insurance in which the medical provider (usually a doctor or hospital) is paid a fee for each service provided to the patient covered under the policy. An important category associated with the indemnity plans is that of consumer driven health care (CDHC). Consumer-directed health plans allow individuals and families to have greater control over their health care, including when and how they access care, what types of care they receive and how much they spend on health care services.

These plans are however associated with higher deductibles that the insured have to pay from their pocket before they can claim insurance money. Consumer driven health care plans include Health Reimbursement Plans (HRAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), high deductible health plans (HDHps), Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Of these, the Health Savings Accounts are the most recent and they have witnessed rapid growth during the last decade.

WHAT IS A HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNT?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States. The funds contributed to the account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. These may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability.

Another feature is that the funds contributed to Health Savings Account roll over and accumulate year over year if not spent. These can be withdrawn by the employees at the time of retirement without any tax liabilities. Withdrawals for qualified expenses and interest earned are also not subject to federal income taxes. According to the U.S. Treasury Office, ‘A Health Savings Account is an alternative to traditional health insurance; it is a savings product that offers a different way for consumers to pay for their health care.

HSA’s enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.’ Thus the Health Savings Account is an effort to increase the efficiency of the American health care system and to encourage people to be more responsible and prudent towards their health care needs. It falls in the category of consumer driven health care plans.

Origin of Health Savings Account

The Health Savings Account was established under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act passed by the U.S. Congress in June 2003, by the Senate in July 2003 and signed by President Bush on December 8, 2003.

Eligibility –

The following individuals are eligible to open a Health Savings Account –

– Those who are covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).
– Those not covered by other health insurance plans.
– Those not enrolled in Medicare4.

Also there are no income limits on who may contribute to an HAS and there is no requirement of having earned income to contribute to an HAS. However HAS’s can’t be set up by those who are dependent on someone else’s tax return. Also HSA’s cannot be set up independently by children.

What is a High Deductible Health plan (HDHP)?

Enrollment in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is a necessary qualification for anyone wishing to open a Health Savings Account. In fact the HDHPs got a boost by the Medicare Modernization Act which introduced the HSAs. A High Deductible Health Plan is a health insurance plan which has a certain deductible threshold. This limit must be crossed before the insured person can claim insurance money. It does not cover first dollar medical expenses. So an individual has to himself pay the initial expenses that are called out-of-pocket costs.

In a number of HDHPs costs of immunization and preventive health care are excluded from the deductible which means that the individual is reimbursed for them. HDHPs can be taken both by individuals (self employed as well as employed) and employers. In 2008, HDHPs are being offered by insurance companies in America with deductibles ranging from a minimum of $1,100 for Self and $2,200 for Self and Family coverage. The maximum amount out-of-pocket limits for HDHPs is $5,600 for self and $11,200 for Self and Family enrollment. These deductible limits are called IRS limits as they are set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In HDHPs the relation between the deductibles and the premium paid by the insured is inversely propotional i.e. higher the deductible, lower the premium and vice versa. The major purported advantages of HDHPs are that they will a) lower health care costs by causing patients to be more cost-conscious, and b) make insurance premiums more affordable for the uninsured. The logic is that when the patients are fully covered (i.e. have health plans with low deductibles), they tend to be less health conscious and also less cost conscious when going for treatment.

Know More About Types of Health Insurance Plans in Florida

Individual, families, groups, and businesses need customized health insurance plans to ensure that they have to spend minimum out-of-the-pocket money for their healthcare needs. With the implementation of healthcare reforms, the options for buying health insurance are widened.

With the advent of internet technology, the concept of transparency of price is gaining momentum. Insurers in Florida health insurance are facing a compelling need of price transparency when they offer health insurance quotes to their clients. At the same time, application time and waiting time for health insurance has reduced significantly as compared to earlier times.

Types of health insurance plans offered in Florida
Apart from State and Federal governments’ sponsored program including Medicare, Medicaid, etc., there is an option of buying health insurance from private companies. Like many other states, health insurance plans in Florida are offered to the residents in traditional format. These could be classified as:

1. Individual health coverage
2. Family health coverage
3. Group insurance
4. Student health coverage
5. Dental health insurance
6. Low cost insurance
7. Low-income families insurance
8. Short-term insurance
9. Small business insurance

Companies offering health insurance Florida
Below is the list of health insurance companies offering health insurance to the residents of Florida:
• Aetna
• AMS
• Assurant
• Avalon Healthcare
• AvMed Health Plans
• Blue Cross and Blue Shield
• Celtic
• Cigna
• Coventry
• Golden Rule
• Humana One
• IAC
• Solera Dental
• Vista

Types of health plans offered in Florida

A lot of consumer end up having discount coupons, which sometimes are termed as health plans; however, it needs to be understood that these discount coupons are not insurance. To buy affordable health plans in Florida, consumers need to equip themselves with proper knowledge about the same.

Traditional categorization of health coverage in Florida offers indemnity and managed care health plans. Indemnity health plans have the insured file claims for reimbursement. While managed care health plans allow the providers to file claims for the insured person.

Managed care health plans are further categorized as HMO, PPO, and POS.

Impact of the Affordable Care Act on insurance in Florida
• 290,000 small businesses in Florida will be offered tax credits for offering health coverage to their employees.
• Medicare beneficiaries in Florida will be automatically mailed a check of $250 to defray the cost of their prescription drugs.
• Early retirees will be offered reinsurance options.
• Uninsured Floridians with pre-existing condition will have a huge boost with $351 million federal dollars made available to Florida starting July 1 to provide coverage.
• Like many other states, for the first time ever, Florida will have the option of Federal Medicaid funding for coverage for all low-income populations, irrespective of age, disability, or family status.
• 8.8 million Floridians will no longer have to worry about lifetime limits on the coverage.
• Around 1.1 million individuals will not have to worry about getting dropped from coverage when they get sick.
• Children in Florida will be able to stay with their family insurance policy till the age of 26 years.

Costs involved in a health coverage plan in Florida

It is important to understand types of costs involved in a health coverage plan to make sure that Floridians have assessed everything before they finalize a health plan. We talk about the types of costs involved in a health coverage plan:

Premium-premium is the amount of money to be paid on monthly basis. Premium is the main cost that a health plan constitutes. It could vary from person to person and in plan to plan. It mainly depends on the age, gender, and health status of a consumer applying to get health coverage.

Deductible-deductible is the second major cost involved in a health plan. It is the amount of money that a consumer pays before the insurer actually begins to pay for the coverage. With higher deductibles, premium costs are reduced.

Coinsurance – coinsurance, as the name explains itself, is the amount of money that the consumer agrees to pay in percentage of the total cost of medical service after the deductible has been paid. Generally, it is usually 80/20 of the total value where 80% of the cost is paid by the insurance companies while the 20% is by the consumer.

Copay – copay is like coinsurance but it is not represented in percentage but in real value. Moreover, there is no consideration of deductibles in copays. Supposing a consumer needs to pay $70 per visit for the doctor: with copay, consumer will be paying $40 and the remaining $30 will be paid by the insurer. However, this copay facility will have some impact on the premium costs