Grace–Marie Turner weighs in with more information supporting the viability and utility of Health Savings Accounts for a wide variety of Americans:
Health Savings Accounts are simply a new way to put a limited amount of money aside, tax–free, to pay for routine health care expenses. What you don't spend in one year rolls over to the next and earnings grow tax–free.
But you can only open an HSA if you have health insurance with a relatively high annual deductible—at least $1,050 for individuals and $2,100 for families this year. The policies also can cover preventive care, including screenings and medicines, so these costs don't have to come out of your HSA.
These higher–deductible health policies generally are less expensive than traditional insurance; just like having a higher deductible on your car insurance means your premiums are lower.
It's hard to understand what all the fuss is about. The real point of HSAs is to offer people a new incentive, a tax–free carrot, to purchase health insurance. Consumers can purchase health insurance that protects them against major medical expenses, and, if they choose, can put the savings from the lower premiums into their HSA for routine health expenses.
And it appears to be working: About 3 million people have purchased HSA–qualifying health insurance, and early studies showed about one–third of these people were previously uninsured. Critics contend that HSAs will appeal only to the young, the healthy, and wealthy, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Forty percent of HSA purchasers make less than $50,000 a year, about half are over age 40, and the biggest share of purchasers are middle–aged families with children.
Blue Cross Blue Shield found that those with HSAs follow the same bell curve in age and health status as those with traditional coverage: As many are young and healthy in both types of plans as are older and sicker. Early evidence also shows that HSA users are more likely to use preventive services and to comply with medical treatments...
HSAs are not a silver bullet but one tool in stabilizing our health sector by helping to reduce the number of uninsured people.