Everything You Need to Know About Last Week’s Congressional Hearings on HSAs

Everything You Need to Know About Last Week’s Congressional Hearings on HSAs

06/14/2018

by Chris Byrd

 

Last week, two separate congressional committees convened to explore how consumer-directed healthcare plans (CDHPs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), when paired with health savings accounts (HSAs), can make healthcare more affordable and accessible for Americans. American consumers have established more than 22 million HSAs, a figure that has grown steadily in recent years and is expected to reach 27.5 million by 2019.

 

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means health subcommittee held a Capitol Hill hearing on the role of CDHPs in expanding access to healthcare, lowering healthcare costs and increasing the number of choices available to consumers. The hearing addressed everything from trends in HSA enrollment to policies that would give more consumers access to tax-advantaged savings accounts.

 

It began with a testimony by Health Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam, who said, “Healthcare reform should empower individuals and families to make decisions for themselves based on what fits their needs and budget. One of the best tools we have to accomplish this goal is consumer-directed health plans that are paired with HSAs. These plans offer lower premiums and a higher deductible to encourage better use of healthcare services. Engaging consumers in their healthcare spending is critical to reining in our system’s ever-increasing costs.”

 

Other experts who spoke at the hearing include Roy Ramthun, president of HSA Consulting Services; Matt Eyles, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP); Jody Dietel, chief compliance officer for WageWorks; and Sherry Glied, dean of New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

 

The following day, the Joint Economic Committee also met to discuss the potential for HSAs to engage patients and bend the healthcare cost curve. Including members of both the House and the Senate, the committee reviews economic conditions and recommends improvements in economic policy. Among those who spoke at its most recent hearing, Kevin McKechnie of the HSA Council, Tracy Watts of Mercer and the American Benefits Counsel and Dr. Scott Atlas of the Hoover Institution explored statistics on the adoption and usage of HSAs, their effect on healthcare expenditures and both the short and long-term effects of greater adoption of CDHPs and HDHPs/HSAs respectively.

 

Dr. Atlas concluded his testimony with this call to action: “Expanded, liberalized and transferable HSAs represent a key instrument in an overall strategy of broadening access to affordable, high quality healthcare for everyone. If appropriately designed, HSAs represent a strong incentive to consider price and value for those seeking medical care. HSAs offer more effective incentives than tax deductions for health expenses. HSAs have been proven to reduce the cost of medical care for individuals, and also to improve health by increasing the use of validated wellness programs. While expanded HSAs alone are not necessarily a panacea, they are a critically important and effective step.”

 

At the crux of both hearings last week was the assertion that as CDHPs become of increasing importance to Americans, more legislation is needed to make them even more beneficial to consumers; this would require numerous amendments to the tax code.  According to McKechnie “These ideas are vetted, bipartisan, and affordable. Some would actually save taxpayer money. Individually and together, they can dramatically strengthen the proven, successful HSA model.”

 

The House Ways and Means health subcommittee hearing, which streamed live on the web, can be viewed in full below.

 

 
The Joint Economic Committee’s hearing on HSAs can also be viewed in full below:

 

Health savings accounts in many ways offer something for everyone. To learn more about their advantages, read our blog post here.

 


Chris Byrd

Executive Vice President, WEX Health Operations & Corporate Development Officer

Chris Byrd brings more than 25 years of experience in employee benefits and banking to his role at WEX Health. A founder of Evolution Benefits in 2000, Chris played a key role in designing the proprietary architecture for the company’s prepaid benefits card.

Chris oversees the daily execution of WEX Health’s business and leads the company’s operations and service delivery, corporate development, merger and acquisition activity, and legal, industry, and government relations efforts.

He began his career in commercial banking, and prior to 2000, he focused on finance, strategy, and business development for Value Health and two start-up healthcare companies. He joined WEX Health in July 2014.

Chris, who serves on numerous industry boards, is a frequent speaker on emerging trends in financial services and benefits and is active in industry and government relations. He earned a degree in economics from Brown University.  


Why the Latest Healthcare Reform Defeat Shouldn’t Be a Distraction from Your Health Benefits Strategy

Why The Latest Healthcare Reform Defeat Shouldn’t Be a Distraction from Your Health Benefits Strategy

10/09/2017

by Chris Byrd

 

Now that the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill has failed, Congress will move on. We can expect it to concentrate instead on some pressing items on the calendar—things like agreeing on a continuing resolution to keep the government operating, raising the debt ceiling and reauthorizing programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And of course, as we all know, congressional leadership is poised to take on the very complex issue of tax reform. In other words, after a six-month-long healthcare debate during which politicians expended a considerable amount of political and emotional energy, healthcare is largely off the table for now, barring the (unlikely) inclusion of healthcare in a tax reform package.

 

This means the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. While it is far from a perfect framework (and both sides of the aisle agree on that), the employer market has adjusted to it. The repeal and replace efforts of the past six months led some employers to place their benefit strategies on hold pending an understanding of what a new world order might look like. My advice: Don’t put off making decisions about your benefits strategy any longer. The deliberation and debate over a wholesale overhaul of the present system is finished. There will be some targeted efforts, most notably to stabilize the individual market, but the employer market framework is known—more of the same.

 

If there is disappointment among supporters of consumer-directed healthcare approaches, it is over the missed opportunity to pass reforms that would have expanded HSAs, restored the OTC tax benefit, eliminated the cap on FSA contributions and further delayed the implementation of the Cadillac Tax. In the absence of a broad reform bill, these supporters will continue to advocate for these provisions in separate pieces of legislation. But much of that effort may have to wait until after the end of the year, given that the attention of the tax-writing committees is fully focused on tax reform. The industry’s biggest priority continues to be to repeal, reform or delay the Cadillac Tax.

 

The market forces that are causing employers to continue to move toward consumer-directed, higher-deductible healthcare plans haven’t changed, and the trend of consumers having more skin in the game is inexorable because it works. Even without the legislative changes that would have been favorable to consumers with tax-advantaged accounts had the broad healthcare reform bills passed, these accounts will remain a very effective and attractive tool for both employers and consumers. Consumers should be making use of them, as they provide a significant benefit by helping them save money and become wise stewards of their healthcare dollars. Consumer-directed health approaches—and the tools and products that have sprung up around them—continue to be an effective part of the answer to the challenges presented by healthcare’s ever-increasing costs. As Congress gathers its energy for another round of discussion and debate—this time around tax reform—employers and consumers should not be distracted by what’s happening in Washington as it relates to their health benefits strategy.

 


Chris Byrd

Executive Vice President, WEX Health Operations & Corporate Development Officer

Chris Byrd brings more than 25 years of experience in employee benefits and banking to his role at WEX Health. A founder of Evolution Benefits in 2000, Chris played a key role in designing the proprietary architecture for the company’s prepaid benefits card.

Chris oversees the daily execution of WEX Health’s business and leads the company’s operations and service delivery, corporate development, merger and acquisition activity, and legal, industry, and government relations efforts.

He began his career in commercial banking, and prior to 2000, he focused on finance, strategy, and business development for Value Health and two start-up healthcare companies. He joined WEX Health in July 2014.

Chris, who serves on numerous industry boards, is a frequent speaker on emerging trends in financial services and benefits and is active in industry and government relations. He earned a degree in economics from Brown University.