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EBRI Study Shows HSA Strength Despite Negative Headlines

Figures can be interpreted in many ways.

Survey results are also open to differing analysis and reporting.

The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) has released two announcements about a study it recently completed on retirement offerings that demonstrates this process once again.

At the same time, the recent study by EBRI confirmed two earlier studies by Information Strategies, Inc. (ISI) that Health Savings Accounts are not just a product for the rich.

Two years ago, ISI released a study showing that HSAs were attractive to families with incomes from $60,000 to $125,000 a year.

In March, EBRI completed a study that shows the percentage of assets held in an HSA by individuals with incomes of $100,000 or more is 31%.  The same survey indicated that less than half the 63.2% of individuals and families holding retirement savings accounts (IRAs).

The EBRI earlier in the same week released a press release headlined that “More than 30% Enrolled in Consumer-Driven Plans Have Household Incomes Over $100,000 a Year.”

The second report is headlined “Individual Account Retirement Plan Assets Concentrated in Families With High Incomes." In this study, households with HSAs and incomes above $100,000 totaled less than half of those with IRAs.

The earlier EBRI report also said that HSAs were important to lower-income families as well but most publications picked up the negative side of the headline.

ISI's earlier studies and data within the EBRI clearly show HSA appeal across a broad spectrum of income levels.

ISI's President & CEO, JoAnn M. Laing also points out that HSAs are growing at a rate five times that of IRAs at the same point in their product cycle with a more diverse economic base of participants.

Industry experts point out that the second release never mentions HSAs or their lower percentage of assets in high-income individuals. The same technique was used for other features of HSAs, including race and income levels where HSA are better.

According to these same experts, EBRI also "poo-poos rising enrollment growth. In 2007 HSA enrollment doubled even in the EBRI study itself, with 2 percent of the insured population enrolled in a consumer-driven health plan (CDHP), up from 1 percent in 2006 and 2005."

According to Consumer Directed Market Reports, enrollment in HDHPs increased from 9 percent in 2005 to 11 percent. The 2 percent of the population with a CDHP represents 2.3 million adults ages 21–64 with private insurance, while the 11 percent with a HDHP represents 12.5 million people.

Among the 12.5 million individuals with an HDHP, 42 percent or 5.2 million reported that they were eligible for a health savings account (HSA) but did not have such an account.

Thus, overall, 7.5 million adults ages 21–64 with private insurance, representing 6.6 percent of that market, were either in a CDHP or were in an HDHP that was eligible for an HSA, but had not opened the account.”


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