Reuters: Consumer-directed U.S. health insurance surges

There may not be a consensus in the nation’s capital on how to control the cost of health care, but businesses and their employees are not sitting around waiting for clarity. They are voting with their wallets for one approach that’s already available: Account-based health insurance plans, which offer lower premiums in exchange for high deductibles.

Consumer-directed health insurance is a cornerstone of Republican-backed market-oriented health reform solutions. It will also be offered as an option to shoppers in the public health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), if the law isn’t struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

Currently, 59 percent of major employers have an account-based health plan option in place, up from 53 percent a year ago, according to a survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health. They queried companies with 1,000 or more employees across a range of industries.

More significantly, employee enrollment in ABHPs has spiked at companies offering them as a choice. This year, 27 percent of eligible employees are enrolled, a 35 percent increase from 2011. That finding mirrors a Fidelity Investments report last week showing a 61 percent surge in sign-ups for health savings accounts among its client companies – the largest one-year gain since Fidelity has been offering HSAs.

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