Abridged from www.aetna.com
Encouraging health care consumerism
Let’s start with the similarities. The philosophies behind the Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) and the Health Savings Account (HSA) are the same – to provide members with affordable health care coverage that gives financial support to help them pay for their health care expenses.
Both are generally offered with deductible-based health plans, which encourage members to become more involved in their own health care decisions by giving them more control over how and when they spend their health care dollars. A member can only contribute to an HSA while enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). The minimum deductible amounts for an HSA-eligible HDHP are established by the Treasury department each year. These plans also give members the information and resources they need to help them make informed health care decisions for themselves and their families, while helping lower employers’ costs.
What’s the difference?
One of the most important differences between the two is that the employer owns the HRA and the employee owns the HSA. This means that the employee takes the HSA along when he or she changes jobs. If an employee with an HRA changes or loses his or her job, any remaining amount in an HRA defaults to the employer.
Another significant difference involves how the two types of accounts are funded. The money in an HRA is provided solely by the employer. HRAs are usually unfunded notional accounts, with no cash value. An HSA is a tax-advantaged account that can be used to pay for IRS-defined health care expenses, including long-term care and COBRA premiums. Anyone can contribute to an HSA, including the employer, the employee or a family member. However, there is an annual maximum contribution amount that is established by the U.S. Treasury.