May 14, 2008
High Deductible or Tax Incentive Policies Do Not Help Those Most in Need
Washington, DC—Congress needs to move toward providing guaranteed health coverage to all Americans instead of expanding access to high-deductible health plans tied to health savings accounts that provide little benefit to low-income people and those needing the most care, according to a written statement prepared by Consumers Union for the U.S. House Health Subcommittee on Ways and Means.
“It is time for Congress to call a halt to this misguided policy and turn its attention to health system reform that will provide guaranteed coverage to all Americans, while improving the quality of care in the system and constraining costs,” said Gail Shearer, Director of Health Policy Analysis for Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.
The statement cites a just-released (April 2008) study by the Government Accounting Office finding that people with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) in 2005 had an average adjusted gross income of $139,000 compared with $57,000 for other filers.
“High deductible insurance and HSAs are splitting the healthy from the sick and the rich from the poor,” Ms. Shearer said. “That is not the direction we ought to be going in on health reform in the U.S.”
“It is unfortunate that current tax policy encourages the creation of a fragmented health insurance market by making contributions to health savings accounts tax deductible,” she added. “What we need to do instead is find new ways to broadly spread the risk health insurers take on so that costs will be affordable for those consumers who are at highest risk of medical problems and incur the greatest expense.”
For a complete copy of the statement, click here.