Health Savings Accounts

HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS….President Bush’s Bold Proposal? for 2006 is apparently going to be Health Savings Accounts, a half-baked pseudo-solution to the healthcare crisis that sounds intriguing primarily to people who are young and healthy and therefore don’t think they’re going to need much healthcare. That’s just the right target audience for a healthcare plan, isn’t it?

Technically, the idea behind HSAs is that you put, say, $2,000 in a tax-free account and then buy a health plan that doesn’t pay anything until your expenses exceed $2,000. You pay for your normal healthcare expenses by drawing money out of the HSA, and if there’s any left over at the end of the year you get to keep it. Ezra has more about it here.

However, for the quick and dirty explanation behind HSAs, here is Peter Gosselin in the LA Times this morning:

Most conservatives ? including those in the administration ? believe that the root cause of most problems with the nation’s healthcare system is that most Americans are over-insured.

The debate over HSAs is going to get mighty wonky over the next few months, but always keep this explanation in mind as you’re trying to make sense of the charges and countercharges. The fundamental idea behind HSAs is not to provide better healthcare, it’s to provide less healthcare. Conservatives want you to think twice before spending a hundred bucks for your regular pap smear.

I’m probably going to write enough about HSAs over the next few months to make everyone scream for mercy, especially since I assume the White House will decline to publish an actual plan, leaving us instead to speculate wildly about what they really have in mind. So I’m going to wrap up this post right here. Just remember: if you think more risk, more complexity, and less healthcare are the answer, HSAs are for you. The rest of us will keep pushing for something that actually makes sense.