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Consumer-directed health plans are a topic I suspect we will all hear more about in 2005. What is a consumer-directed health plan? They are more tradition ally known as HSAs or Health Savings Accounts and HRAs or Health Reimbursement Arrangements. Without getting into specific plan details, as there are too many plan designs to talk specifics, HSAs and HRAs are high deductible plans, ranging form $1000 per individual, upward to $10,000 per family in out of pocket expenses. The demands of these high deductibles are made easier on employees by setting up an employee owned savings account, (HSA) or coming to an employer/employee agreement on how claims are paid past a certain point (HRA). The idea is lowering the actual health insurance premiums by going to a high deductible plan and then putting the money saved to work for employees and employers alike. What will be different about this year versus years past? Awareness! You may have heard the issue brought to national attention in this year’s presidential debates. You may have been solicited by other insurance agencies, telling you that these plans are the new best thing. Fact is, these are the plans of the future, but we strongly encourage employers to go cautiously and do their homework. It is crucial that employers and employees truly understand what is involved in a plan design change like this. It is important to know what the positives and negatives of each type of plan design are, and how they might affect your group. So as you hear more on the subject of consumer-directed health plans, (HSA/HRA) remember to talk to one of us at Bates & Associates, as there are a lot of things to consider. Best wishes in the coming year.

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