Health Savings Account Assets Grow To $15.5 Billion in 2012, EBRI Reports

More Americans are putting cash into health savings accounts.

Despite a lull in 2008 and 2009 and decline in 2010, Americans are again taking advantage of health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements.

After a drop during the Great Recession, health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) are growing again.

The average account balance increased during each of the past two years, according to new research by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

According to EBRI research, average account balances across the nation were $1,470 in 2011 — a 9% increase from 2010 — and $1,534 in 2012 — a 4% increase from 2011.

In 2012, there were 11.6 million HSA and HRA accounts with a combined total of $17.8 billion in assets, according to the EBRI.

Six years earlier, in 2006, there were 1.3 million accounts with $873.4 million in assets.

More American are using health savings accountsIndividual health savings accounts are a central element in so-called high-deductible “consumer-driven” health insurance plans, which first began to appear in the workplace about 12 years ago.

They are designed to give individuals more control over funds allocated for health care services, in theory causing health plan participants to spend the money more responsibly.

Number Of Health Savings Accounts Likely To Grow

As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act extends health care to more Americans, millions of whom are expected to have high-deductible health insurance plans, the number of health savings accounts is expected to grow.

Average health savings account balances leveled off in 2008 and 2009, declining in 2010, according to the Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey (CEHCS), sponsored by EBRI and Mathew Greenwald and Associates.

Average health savings account balances rebounded to $1,470, in 2011 up 9% from 2010, and to $1,534 in 2012, up 4%.

In 2012, there were $17.8 billion stashed in health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements in about 11.6 million accounts, according to the CEHCS.

Healthy behavior by owners of these health savings accounts does not mean they have higher account balances, notes Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program and author of the report.

“Individuals who smoke have more money in their accounts than those who do not smoke. There was very little difference in account balances by level of exercise,” Fronstin said. “Next to no relationship was found between either account balance or rollover amounts and various cost-conscious behaviors.”

Among other findings, the report found that men have higher health savings account balances than women. Older individuals have higher health savings account balances than younger people.

Health savings account balances also increase with household income. Education has a significant impact on account balances independent of income and other variables. Rollover amounts increased with household income and education.

Individuals with single coverage rolled over a slightly higher amount than those with family coverage in 2012.

The full report is published in the January 2013 EBRI Issue Brief no. 382, “Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements: Assets, Account Balances, and Rollovers, 2006–2012,” online at

In a separate survey conducted by health savings account industry investment firm Devenir reached similar conclusions to the EBRI’s research, helping to validate the trend.

“With both record contributions and withdrawals in HSA accounts in 2012, we continue to see that not only are people using their HSA dollars for current medical expenses, but more importantly they are actually accumulating savings for future medical expenses” said Jon Robb, Devenir’s VP of Research.

Minneapolis-based Devenir projects the HSA market may reach $26 billion in assets by the end of 2015.

Click here to view the health savings account survey executive summary on Devenir’s website.

Read more: Quick Facts About High-Deductible Health Plans

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