UnitedHealth and WellPoint Add More Than 1.2 Million Lives to Country's Largest Consumer-Directed Health Plans

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Biweekly newsletter, Inside Consumer-Directed Care reports on growth trends of health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

WellPoint, Inc. and UnitedHealth Group, the nation's two largest sellers of consumer-directed health plans, collectively added 1.23 million CDH lives over the past year.

WellPoint, the nation's second largest seller of CDH plans, says it ended 2007 with 1.35 million lives covered by either an HRA-based product or an HSA-qualified plan. That's up 59% from 821,000 on the same date a year ago, says spokesperson James Kappel.

While results have not yet been finalized, United says its Jan. 1, 2008, CDH enrollment will likely exceed 2.6 million lives. That's up from 1.9 million lives on the same date a year ago and 2.25 million on July 1, 2007. The insurer says the majority of its CDH members (65%) are enrolled in a plan that includes a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). The other 35% have coverage that is compatible with a health savings account (HSA).

"We have a lot of confidence that we will surpass 2.5 million (lives) by a wide margin" as of Jan. 1, 2008, says Meredith Baratz, vice president of market solutions in United's Definity Health division. "There have been discussions about CDH enrollment plateauing, but we haven't seen evidence of that." An upcoming study from Hewitt Associates, for example, predicts flat to declining enrollment in CDH plans for 2008 and beyond.

Bill Sharon, an employee benefits consultant in the Tampa Bay, Fla., office of Aon Consulting, says the number of employer clients with a CDH plan is up 25% from a year ago. "And we expect that growth rate to continue," he says. "I think there is a growing recognition that CDH plans are an effective strategy for reducing health (coverage) cost increases. We're eight years into the CDH movement, and there is now a considerable body of research that shows CDH plans are working."

Alexander Domaszewicz, a consultant in Mercer Health & Benefit 's Newport Beach, Calif., office, agrees that CDH plans have become more common among employers. The plans also have become more popular among employees, he adds.

Last year, Mercer surveyed 77 large employers that have had an optional CDH plan since 2005. The average enrollment, according to survey results, increased from 21% in 2005, to 25% in 2006 and to 29% in 2007, according to the study.

"The years of consistent doubling of CDH enrollment are probably over," says Domaszewicz, "but strong in-program enrollment growth, new offerings and a small but steady number of total replacements continue to fuel meaningful growth."

This article has been excerpted from AIS's Inside Consumer-Directed Care. To read the story in its entirety, visit http://www.aishealth.com/Bnow/hbd021908.html.

About Atlantic Information Services:
AIS develops highly targeted news, data and strategic information for managers in hospitals, health plans, medical group practices, pharmaceutical companies and other health care organizations. Free resources found at AISHealth.com include: AIS's Health Business Daily, Government News of the Week, Upcoming Health Business Meetings, Health Business Job Openings and AIS's Free Health Industry Reports. For more information, visit http://www.AISHealth.com.


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