Six years after health savings accounts were introduced, only 59% of the population has heard of them, only half of these people actually understand them, and only 14% of the overall population own them, Guardian Life Insurance found in its Spotlight on Consumer-Driven Health Plans Survey.

“Because these plans offer compelling benefits for both employers and their employees, we wanted to uncover the obstacles to increasing participation, identify key motivators and develop Guardian resources to expand ownership of HSAs,” said Tim Bireley, vice president of group medical at Guardian.

Fifty-two percent did not know that contributions to HSAs are tax deductible, and 55% did not know that withdrawals used for qualified medical expenses are also not subject to taxes. In addition, 60% did not know that they can take the HSA with them when they switch jobs.

For their part, employers also mistakenly think that HSAs are complex. Many also do not contribute to employees’ HSAs, and Guardian found that would make the plans more attractive to 61% of employees. Fifty-seven percent said that if insurance for critical illness were included, that would make HSAs more attractive.

“As the economy, coupled with rising healthcare premiums, forces business owners, employees and benefit decision makes to make difficult financial choices regarding their healthcare offerings, consumer-driven health plans can provide a solution,” Bireley said.

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