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Finally, a Health Savings Account!

The New York Times reports Health Savings Accounts are slow to gain acceptance:

People around the nation are now taking part in the annual enrollment season for health care plans, but only a tiny fraction of employers are offering the new plans. The plans let workers create tax-free savings accounts to use for medical costs, combined with lower-cost, high-deductible insurance to cover major medical care. Most employees who already have health benefits said in an insurance industry survey that they would be reluctant to switch even if they were offered one of the new plans.

For 2005, Intel will be offering a plan with an HSA, and I can't wait to sign up. Last year I dreaded the enrollment season and out of apathy didn't change anything. This year the choice is obvious. Why?

Health insurance with broad coverage and a low or no deductible isn't really "insurance" — it's actually third-party prepayment for medical services. There's no mystery why health care costs are rising so quickly. Within such a system, there is no incentive for the individual to pay attention to cost. They're spending someone else's money, so why should they care? As a member of the demographic group least likely to need medical care (a single young healthy male), I've been subsidizing everyone else.

No more! Intel is offering the Lumenos HSA plan (calling it the Lumenos High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)) and allowing me to escape this theft, with a glad tip of the hat to George W. Bush. This plan lets me contribute pretax dollars into an account that I own — and unlike the older Lumenos HRA plan (Intel calls it the Lumenos Consumer-Driven Health Plan (CDHP)), there is no balance limit.

One of the comparison tools available to help people compare their health insurance options included figures for how much the various plans cost my employer in addition to how much it cost me. The HDHP is far and away the cheapest option for Intel. (I'm not going to post the numbers, just in case that would get me in trouble.) It's going to be cheapest for me, too, given how much health care I use.

This is a win-win. I get real insurance — that is, catastrophic coverage — and my HSA gets the tax break that the employer would normally get for the insurance costs. Oh, and I won't need no stinkin' referral to see a specialist. Preventative care measures are automatically covered by the plan and won't cost anything from my HSA. (This is actually a minor disappointment from my desire for pure catastrophic coverage.)

HSAs are good. I like ownership. I like being able to invest my HSA funds to accumulate enough money to pay for anti-aging therapies, and if that doesn't work out, for the — no, my — money to be inheritable.

Tiny Island