Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)-The Good, The Bad, and The Fugly ;

I just read an article from the October 13th edition of Business Week, entitled Health Savings Accounts: More Time, Less Money by Lauren Young which, in short order does a good job of highlighting some of the benefits and pitfalls of high deductible health plans and health savings accounts.

The article did do a good job of highlighting the lack of transparency in healthcare costs which makes shopping for healthcare challenging but also highlighted some common sense approaches for reducing out of pocket expenses like avoiding an emergency room when an urgent care facility will do just as well.  One resource I have found which could help shoppers get their arms around what things costs is an website called outofpocket.com .  OOP is a consumer driven website in which folks like you and me input price information about medical procedures they have received as a resource for others facing the same procedures.  It is still new but has a lot of potential.

The article in one section also made shopping for healthcare seem a little bit like haggling for jewelry in a Turkish bazzar, which certainly isn’t for everyone nor is it the norm.  But again it highlights that lack of transparency.

The article is worth a read for sure and can help put some color on what can be a rather mundane subject.

I have had an HDHP for over a year as well as an HSA.  Shopping for both the HDHP as well as the HSA was a pain, but it was not so much the product as much as it was the process (research, paperwork, the waiting, etc.).  And I’m not crazy about the prescription benefit (or lack thereof) of my HDHP.  The inefficiency in how I pay for services is also irritating.  These three things on the table though, it has been my experience that withthe exception of the drug benefit, the irritants are no worse than the same kinds of things I had to deal with with the PPO offered by my former employer.

And for me, the plus side far outweighs the minus side.  I get to use the doctors of my choice.  Both my wife and I have become better healthcareshoppers.  With a heightened awareness about costs we have found we could save good money by shopping for meds at places like Publix, Kroger, Wal-Mart and Ohhhhhhhh Canada and for taking advantage of our plan’s well-care benefits.  The biggest benefit is that we put $5,000 in our HSA last year which we have managed not to touch and were able to take that of our taxable income base.  We plan to do the same again this year and as long as we get it done before tax day 2009 we can take it off our 2008 tax nut.

So, all-in-all, the insurance piece of the HDHP I’d say has been a wash with our old insurance in terms of the process of using the insurance.  The savings piece and the focus on living a healthier life and being a smarter consumer has been just awsome.

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