Obama Speech: No Red Flags (Yet) For HSAs
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10 September 2009
Like many of you, last night I watched President Obama's address to Congress regarding healthcare. I was particularly attuned to any information that might reveal the administration's views regarding consumer-directed healthcare (CDH) and accompanying tax-advantaged accounts, such as HSAs. One passage of President Obama's speech (that raised Republican heckles) mentioned that the details still have to be worked out. Some of these details presumably include the definition of minimal sufficient coverage and whether CDH plans such as HDHPs (high-deductible health plans) meet the actuarial equivalency test -- something I've blogged about before. Having said that, I didn't hear President Obama ruling such plans out. In fact, he made references to "affordable options" and "low-cost insurance" -- could these be euphemisms for high-deductible health plans (HDHPs)? President Obama also stated his position in support of individual and employer mandates -- if this comes to pass, tens of millions of new insurance customers (many of them low-income) will enter the market. Combine all of the above and HSAs have a chance to really flourish. As an aside, I was disappointed that there was no mention of Americans' personal responsibility toward their own health -- something that the Republican response at least alluded to.
I agree. It sounded to me as if the President, in his speech, was endorsing the plan that Sen. Baucus is pushing in an attempt to get bi-partisan support for healthcare reform. A summary of the proposal that has been released by the Senator even mentions HSAs by name as a way to benchmark out-of-pocket maximums for those who would receive a subsidy to purchase coverage. That is a bit encouraging, for sure.