So, I'm back from a three-month maternity leave, which brings on a slew of mixed emotions: happy to be spending a good chunk of time among adults; sad to be missing my baby. Happy to be editing again and writing to all of you; sad to be missing my baby. You get the picture.

I've been through a lot of changes over the last three months. I'm now a mother of three, which has equaled less free time, less money and less sleep than I'd grown used to. It meant creating a whole new schedule, personally and professionally. And it's also brought new health insurance.

Let me tell you: I do not have mixed emotions about switching health plans. I am all in, 100% happy with the change.

Adding a third child forced my husband and I to re-examine the financial fitness of our health coverage - at the time an HDHP with an HSA. I never really liked the HSA much, but please don't overwhelm me with emails and online comments about that. That debate's been had - publicly and negatively - and I have no desire to relive it. The HSA just wasn't for us. End of story.

Anyway. When Husband's open enrollment period rolled around, coinciding with our qualifying life event, it seemed like the benefit stars had aligned just so. We ran the numbers, made sure our doctors were in the new network, and jumped ship to the new plan. My employer's HR/benefits team - although they were much too kind to admit it - was more than happy to ship me and my now four eligible dependents to someone else.

Our new plan is still an HDHP (with a $5,000 family deductible), but with an HRA debit card instead of an HSA. The debit card is front loaded to cover about half of the family deductible; then we cover the rest of our expenses up to the remaining half out of pocket. It makes it much easier for us to research, plan and save for costlier services, while still having enough funds on hand to tend to unforeseen medical expenses that are par for the course with three young kids.

In short: the HRA - me likey. It's like I'd been eating peas all this time and then tried corn. Still eating my veggies, so to speak, in terms of staying on top of our medical spending, comparison shopping for providers and facilities, and facing the real cost of care head-on. But the plan design and the plan itself are so much more simpatico with our family, our budget, and how we interact with the health care system. And with three kids to run after, I'll take all the simpatico I can get.

Have you tried - or does your company offer - both an HSA and an HRA? Which do you and/or your employees prefer and why? Email me your thoughts or comment online at

Send letters, queries and story ideas to Editor-in-Chief Kelley M. Butler at

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