Sen. John Carlson and the government health savings account piggybank

Categories: Politics

johncarlson.jpg
State Sen. John Carlson, planning for a grabber.
With some disturbingly audible heavy breathing, State Sen. John Carlson took to the floor at the Capitol yesterday to proudly declare that he doesn't bother seeing the doctor. Why? Because it may help him bag an annual $1,500, courtesy of Minnesota taxpayers.

Carlson, an insurance agent from Bemidji in real life, was promoting Sen. Mike Parry's proposal replacing health insurance coverage for state workers with private health savings accounts coupled with high-deductible insurance premiums. It's part of the $1.6 billion budget-cutting measure that cleared the Senate yesterday.

HSAs are great if you're a strapping, healthy human upon whom nobody depends for health insurance benefits. But if you've got even a minor medical condition that requires regular care, HSAs are a pain and a drain on your financial well being.

Either way, Carlson says the taxpayer-funded HSA, with its $1,500 annual contribution, amounts to an awesome personal piggy bank:

This is where the big piece is. The $1,500, if you don't go to the doctor, other than for your preventive care, rolls over. Now fast-forward one more year. I didn't use any health services last year, but I had $1,500 that the state put into my health savings account. It's a new year. That $1,500 is still there. The state gives me another $1,500. I now have $3,000 in my health savings account. If my maximum out of pocket is $2,000, I come out $1,000 ahead if I have a heart attack. Members, this is a huge benefit.

Your tax dollars at work.

Watch:

Here's the text of the bill related to HSAs:

Beginning January 1, 2010 2012, the health insurance benefit plans offered to state employees, including legislators and legislative staff, must be a health savings account-eligible high-deductible health plan that is compatible with the definition of a high-deductible health plan in section of the United States Internal Revenue Code. The following provisions apply: the employer shall deposit $1,500 to an individual health savings account and $2,500 to a family health savings account and the deposit is dependent upon the availability of a biennial appropriation for this purpose.

Read the full text of the bill here.

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Jerry
Jerry

Yah, sure dere, Chuck.

Then the insurance company drops you as soon as you need enough care to become expensive - just as your condition is deemed chronic, not acute. So you've paid through the nose out-of-pocket, without the discounts that health plans get, plus premiums for your worthless insurance.

It's a great health care system all right. Everyone gets rich except the patients and hospital workers.

Chuck
Chuck

You wrote, "HSAs are great if you're a strapping, healthy human upon whom nobody depends for health insurance benefits. But if you've got even a minor medical condition that requires regular care, HSAs are a pain and a drain on your financial well being."

Wrong.

HSAs get adults of all ages focused on their current and future health care needs. Plus, they are tied to health insurance benefits that kick in once an annual deductible is met for the individual or family. Yes, the deductible is a bit higher than the traditional health insurance many people are used to, but the premiums are typcially half the cost of those traditional health plans.

The health savings account starts each year with an employer contribution "in the bank," so to speak, to be used for future health care expenses. The account can be managed online and comes with a debit card that can be carried and used for each health care expense. As the example in the article notes, this amount never goes away (unless you spend it) and you can make payroll contributions to grow the account as much or as little as you want. If you don't spend the HSA on health care needs, it rolls over year to year - growing and growing. By the time the average individual reaches retirement age, he or she has a nice nest egg reserved to cover future health care expenses. It's a win-win if people get active in managing their care and saving for future needs along the way - rather than running to the ER every time they have a sniffle.

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