Katherine Restrepo’s latest Forbes column explores the benefits of health savings accounts.
Why is health care so expensive? One reason is that Americans have little sense of what their care actually costs.
Patients aren’t the true customers of health care, insurance companies are. Insurance carriers are the ones that are buying services from hospitals, physicians, medical equipment providers, and other professionals in the field.
Sure, patients who have insurance are subject to co-pays and co-insurance. However, the lack of consumer control and the pervasiveness of government price controls over health care services and health insurance is what keep high health care costs alive and well.
Some members of Congress are trying to make health care more like other sectors of the economy; that is, giving patients (consumers) the option to have more control over how they spend their health care dollars – even for big ticket items. Consumer power drives market competition. It spurs innovation, and it pushes businesses to appeal to those shopping for their goods and services.
So, how can there be more of this in health care?
It can start by expanding health savings accounts (HSAs). HSAs under current law let consumers under the age of 65 build up savings for certain medical expenses, all tax-free. The Health Savings Account Expansion Act, sponsored by US Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) and Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA), would do the following:
- Triple current HSA contribution limits to $9,000 for individuals and $18,000 for families.
- Link HSAs with any type of health plan. Today, HSAs can only be linked with high-deductible health plans – defined as plans with a minimum deductible amount of $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family.
- Pay health insurance premiums with HSA funds.
- Pay Direct Primary Care (DPC) membership fees with HSA funds.