The Rise of the HSA-Qualified High-Deductible Health Plan

The annual Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) is considered an industry leader in measuring the trajectory of the healthcare industry, providing insights into the various directions businesses are moving towards in order to provide affordable healthcare options to their employees. We’ve done the digging for you and condensed the information into this short blog post, where you’ll learn which consumer-driven health benefits have been trending over recent years and what that means for brokers, employers, and participants (the employees).

According to the KFF’s research, High Deductible Health Plans with a Savings Option, or HDHP/SOs (this is the term the KFF uses when referring to HDHPs with an HSA or an HRA), have become increasingly popular since 2006, when 4% of health plans enrollments were in HDHP/SOs. Since then, the HDHP/SO option has grown in popularity to become the second most popular health plan at 29% in 2016. So why has it gained so much popularity?

More Popular Among Employers

It is no secret that the HSA has become an increasingly popular option for employers offering an HDHP/SO plan to their employees.

In 2005, when only 4% of healthcare plans offered were HDHP/SO plans, 50% of those were HSA-Qualified HDHP plans. When the percentage of HDHP/SO plans offered skyrocketed to 29% of total health plans offered in 2016, more than 80% of those were HSA-Qualified HDHP plans (or nearly one-quarter (24%) of all healthcare plans offered). If this trend continues, the HDHP/SO plan could become the most popular healthcare plan in the U.S. This is already proving true for large companies: in 2016, more than half of firms with 200 or more employees who offered health benefits to their employees offered an HDHP/SO health plan.

More Popular Among Employees

When the numbers are broken down by enrollment, participation numbers for HDHP/HRA plans have been relatively flat in recent years rising just 2% (7% to 9%) from 2010 to 2016. But the HSA-Qualified HDHP seems to be gaining popularity among employees, climbing 13% in that same time-frame (6% to 19%). The HSA-Qualified HDHP has seen consistent gains since, making it appear to be the clear favorite for now.

Why the Change?

The most obvious reason for the change among employers is likely the substantial cost savings. This would also explain the trend toward the HSA, which is usually funded by the employee (however, anyone can contribute to an HSA), rather than the HRA which is fully employer-funded. A March 2015 article by NPR says, “Companies that switch workers into high-deductible plans can reap enormous savings. Total costs paid by everybody — employer, employee and insurance company — tend to fall in the first year or rise more slowly when consumers have more at stake at the health-care checkout counter whether or not they're making medically wise choices.” And so do the employees when you compare the prices in monthly premiums of an HDHP/SO to that of an HMO or PPO.

Another statistic worth mentioning is the percentage of companies offering health benefits who shopped for a new plan in the 2015-2016 year which, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, was just over half of all companies. Of that 51%, more than one-in-five (21%) decided to switch their health insurance plan provider. When you compare that to the popular trend of offering HDHP/SO health plans, it appears that more and more companies with traditional healthcare plans (HMOs and PPOs) are shopping around in an effort to save money. It’s safe to say that if they do their due diligence, many of those companies will end up making the switch to HDHP/SOs.

What It Means For Employees

When given the choice between an HDHP/SO plan or a traditional (HMO or PPO) health plan through a private exchange, many employees are choosing the option to pay less for health insurance via the HDHP/SO. But it also means they are accepting more responsibility for their own well-being -- whether that be through more careful consideration before choosing to go see a doctor/have a procedure, or shopping around more to find the lowest price. Employees who are enrolled in an HDHP/SO have to make wise decisions about their long-term health if they don’t want to end up losing the money they’re saving in the short term by compounding a problem in the long-term -- which would result in a lengthier, more extensive and more expensive hospital visit.

What It Means For Brokers

There are plenty of customers out there eager and willing to switch from their current insurance provider to a less expensive option. It also means there are huge sales opportunities for brokers in the HDHP/SO market as demand increases. But first, it’s essential for brokers to know how to clearly articulate the value to their clients and their employees.

As a trusted HSA and HRA partner to thousands of brokers across the nation, Ameriflex can provide the coaching and resources you need to win big in the HSA and HRA market. Interested in learning more about our HSA and HRA product offerings? Click here to get in touch with our team.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and no one else. Information used in this article was taken from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation ( and was posted September 14, 2016.

The link to the original report can be found here:

The article referenced by National Public Radio can be found here:

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