Health insurance 101: Health savings accounts help consumers fill gaps in coverage

Fifth in a series of blog posts to help you better understand health insurance and how recent changes affect you. As we’ve noted throughout this series, consumers are shouldering more responsibility for their own health care spending. New consumer-directed health plans incorporate tools to ease the burden and help individuals make smarter decisions regarding their care. One way is through health savings accounts.

An HSA allows you to pay for current health care expenses not covered by your high-deductible health plan and save for future ones, all on a tax-free basis. The account is funded by the employee, the employer, or both, but the account is owned by the employee. Leftover balances can be rolled over from year to year.

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Health insurance 101: Rising costs spur changes in health plan designs

Second in a series of blog posts to help you better understand health insurance and how recent changes affect you. We welcome your comments and questions.

As health care costs rise, the types of plans offered to employees are expanding.

From our own frequently asked questions:

My employer provides me with health insurance but keeps asking me to chip in more money to cover costs. Why can’t I just get a PPO that covers everything without asking me for any contribution, like before?

In general, the percentage of employers that offer group health insurance plans to employees is on the decline, a side effect of rising health care costs. Although the rate of premium costs has slowed in recent years, premiums continue to rise faster than inflation and wages.

While Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan still offers high-quality PPO plans, today’s health care market is shifting more toward consumerism, where individuals are encouraged to take control of their personal wellness and health care spending. And yes, that means employers who offer group coverage are offering high-deductible health plans that ask employees to share more in the costs of their coverage.

In the wake of laws enacted in recent years, insurers have begun offering plans that help individuals better absorb these expenses and use their health dollars more wisely.

A look at some of those plans in greater detail. See also: Costs are rising. What’s a consumer to do?