New research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute says that the health savings accounts saw significant increases in 2013 when compared to employer-funded health reimbursement arrangements due to funding structures.

Because of the HSA makeup, which is partly funded based off employer and employee contributions, EBRI notes that shifts in favor of account-based health plans have been uncovered when looking at data from the 2013 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey.

Findings from the 2013 CEHCS stated that HRA usage declined for the first time last year since 2003.

“Both HSAs and HRAs have been around long enough that a growing percentage of the population has held them for a number of years,” EBRI Director of Health Research and Education Paul Fronstin said. “But two types of plans appear to be taking different directions.”

There was approximately 400,000 less HRA accounts in 2013. This plan-type, while reaching 4.7 million, pales in comparison to the HSA increase from 6.6 million to 7.2 million, EBRI said in the statement.

Similarly, total assets declined to $5.8 billion for HRAs while HSAs increased from $11.3 billion to $16.6 billion. Average account balances in HSAs increased to $2,311 and HRAs dipped slightly to $1,235 in 2013.

Fronstin added that both HSAs and HRAs cover about 15% of the privately insured market. He expects that when account balances begin to bounce back, investment diversification will also change.

“Currently, account balances are low and are therefore invested in relatively safe vehicles such as money market funds,” Fronstin said. “However, as account balances will grow, the potential to invest in more diverse investment vehicles, such as mutual funds and stocks, will grow.

The private, nonpartisan research institute study explained that total assets in these health plans reached about $23.8 billion. 

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