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Taking a New Look at HSAs

Self-service tools support newly authorized health savings accounts

As a result of The Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which was recently signed into law by President Bush, health insurers can now manage tax-deductible health savings accounts (HSAs) that permit unused balances to be carried forward from year to year or rolled over if a consumer changes employment. Health insurers Aetna (Hartford) and CIGNA (Philadelphia) plan to offer the accounts.

CIGNA, which currently manages a few consumer-driven healthcare options, including medical savings accounts (MSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs), anticipates offering the newly authorized accounts in the future. Although it is too soon for CIGNA to discuss specifics, "HSAs are a logical extension of our IT strategy to engage, educate and empower our members with online information, transaction and decision-support tools to improve health outcomes at reduced costs," says spokesperson Joe Mondy.

The carrier anticipates making online self-service tools-which are currently available for use with CIGNA's consumer-driven healthcare options-available as part of its HSAs. As part of, current members of the carrier's consumer-driven healthcare plans can conduct online account balance tracking and transactions, access prescriptions and medical services costs, and access a savings account calculator to estimate their out-of-pocket costs, Mondy says.

Similarly, Aetna will make HSA accounts available. Although it was too soon for Aetna to talk about the technology implications of its offering at press time, spokesperson Elizabeth Sell confirmed that they will become an option in Aetna's HealthFund family of consumer-directed health plan products.

In order to be eligible for an HSA account, a consumer must hold a high-deductible insurance plan, reports, a site hosted by an independent group of insurance agents and financial planners.

Consumers who once held a traditional policy can instead take the funds that would have been spent on that policy and allocate a portion toward a high-deductible policy and deposit the balance into a tax-deductible HSA account. According to, the savings accounts should be used to help pay smaller covered medical expenses until the deductible is met.

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