President to Push Personal Health Savings Accounts

By: Allison Miller
By: Allison Miller

The accounts work essentially like a high deductible insurance policy account holders and their employers pay into the tax-free plans building up savings to use for every day medical expenses.

Royal Credit Union is one local employer considering adopting health savings accounts.

R-C-U Chief Financial Officer, Jon Hehli ,says the accounts would help cut the company's medical costs, their second biggest expense after employee wages, but may not be the best idea for all workers.

"Some employees who do not use health care very much will benefit from a plan like this," says Hehli, "But younger people with a family, older people with health problems that probably won't be the best environment to be in."

Finding that balance is just one of the challenges employers and individuals face with health savings accounts.

Proponents say the market based plans give people a tangible stake in the cost of their health care while opponents argue they run the risk consumers will make health choices based only on cost.

"If individuals are thinking, 'well I don't want to spend this money' they may be less likely to seek preventive care," says Jennifer Johns-Artisensi a health care administration professor at UW-Eau Claire, "So they might wait till they're very sick and ultimately leading to higher bills or hospitalization than if they would have gotten care in a timely manner."

Health care experts say it will take a long time to tell if health savings accounts are part of the health care solution or another health care problem.

Supporters say the plans save employers and employees money while critics say they shift costs to consumers and don't help the uninsured.

Either way with the President's support of health savings accounts is sure to be a major topic of debate in the coming year.

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