Millions of Americans will start using their Health Savings Accounts begining this January.
For many of these individuals and their families, this will usher in a brave new world where they face unexpected challenges and at the same time find they are in greater control of their healthcare both in terms of finance and delivery of services.
For many healthcare providers, January 2008 will be see the start of a new flood of demands and changes.
Information Strategies, Inc. (ISI) is estimating that more than four million lives will be covered by new HSA healthcare insurance polices taking effect starting in the first quarter of 2008.
Many of these policies will be issued either to individuals or employees of small and medium-size companies. A large number will also originate from big corporations making the transition.
However, this growth will usher in a set of new problems, which will require additional work and effort on the part of all parties, users, financial institutions, TPAs, healthcare providers and insurance companies.
Education has always been a key ingredient to HSA success and the prospects for confusion and disarray are strong.
Many insurance companies and financial institutions have not geared up for this rapid acceleration in users and complaints are expected to rise.
For many plan administrators, corporate and Third Party Administrators, the demands may be difficult to handle.
Nonetheless, the growth in HSAs will continue strong in 2008 and present naysayers with a chance to complain but also be made more aware that they are here to stay.
According to JoAnn M. Laing, ISI's President & CEO, "the growth in HSAs has been in line with our projections. However, are polling of HSA users shows a marked increase in the number of questions and concerns about how they are being administered and deployed."
"We are seeing a number of cases where companies have simply failed to properly educate their employees about the usage and restrictions concerning HSAs," she added.
Another problem arising from the strong growth is the failure on the part of many financial institutions to make employees, particularly those that meet the public, about HSAs and their restrictions and usage.
Starting January first, chain drugstores and those operated by large retailers must separate out HSA compliant purchases from non-compliant sales and to reject those that do not qualify. This is another area that will bring a plethora of complaints in the first few months.
Independent drugstores will be required to do the same in 2009 when even more HSA users will come on board.
HSAs are very much a product of the Internet and surveys have shown that financial institutions have not properly equipped their websites with the tools to make them truly operative for depositors.
Despite these "hiccups," HSAs are growing at a rate that will make them difficult to slow even if there is a change in party leadership in the White House.