Contributions from employers to workers’ account-based health plans have dropped for the last two years, the Employee Benefit Research Institute reports.

About two-thirds of employees with these accounts received an employer contribution, but only 28% of workers say that their employer put in $1,000 or more last year, down from 37% in 2008. About 15% say that their employer contributed between $200 and $499.

High insurance costs have pushed employers toward account-based health plans —a combination of health plans with deductibles of at least $1,000 for employee-only coverage and tax-preferred savings or spending accounts that workers and their families can use to pay their out-of-pocket health care expenses.

Last year, 22 million people were enrolled in such an account, including 5% of the adult population with private health insurance.

Workers with employee-only coverage increased their own contributions, but employees with family plans tended not to.  Forty percent of workers who did not have health problems contributed $1,500 or more to their account, and 51% of those with a health problem contributed at least that much, EBRI found.

The analysis is based on the 2008, 2009, and 2010 EBRI/MGA Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey and the 2006 and 2007 EBRI/Commonwealth Fund Consumerism in Health Care Surveys.

"The recession had a profound effect on employers, and they are continuing to look for ways to cut health care costs while empowering their workers to make cost-conscious decisions about their health," said study author Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program.

Temma Ehrenfeld writes for Financial Planning, a SourceMedia publication.Follow EBN on: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Podcasts

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