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HSA hearing coming
WASHINGTON (5/09/08)—Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif), chairman of a House Ways and Means subcommittee on health, has scheduled a hearing on Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). The hearing is scheduled for May 14. In a hearing notice, Stark noted that proponents of the savings plans argue that they help control overall health spending because individuals have a significant financial stake in the cost of their care. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) supports the availability of HSAs for consumers and backs the expansion of these accounts. Noting that there are nearly seven million HSA account holders in the United States, CUNA believes HSAs are a way of providing credit union members with a means to build wealth while also better managing personal medical costs. CUNA also supports an aggressive effort to encourage credit unions to offer HSAs, as only about 600 credit unions currently offer these accounts. However, opponents of the accounts argue that they have the opposite of their intended effect. Stark noted an April 2008 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study that found, in part, that average HSA enrollees had incomes nearly three times the average income of other tax filers and that HSA contributions were almost twice that of withdrawals. “Simply stated, these policies are designed to help those who can afford to put money away to do so, but only serve to put health care further out of reach for those with high medical costs and/or modest incomes,” Stark said. He added his concern that “these plans may discourage consumers from seeking treatment and obtaining preventive care, and total health spending could even increase if people defer or delay needed preventive care or initial treatment.” An official witness list was not yet available.

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