MSAs – Gold Mine Or Shaft?

Republicans and Democrats are dueling over the experimental tax-free Medical Savings Accounts (MSA) this week. Republican leaders will propose legislation that would make MSAs available to all Americans.

MSAs were designed to help people set aside money to pay for routine medical bills and the premium for a high-deductible insurance policy. MSAs have insured those who would otherwise not be able to afford health insurance. Currently, the self-employed and companies with fewer than 50 workers are eligible to take advantage of the program.

The program, which started in 1997, has been slow to gain momentum. Currently, less than 100,000 people have chosen to use MSAs; lawmakers put the limit at 750,000. On the positive side, almost 15,000 of these MSA users previously had no form of health insurance.

Democrat critics declare the accounts don’t protect users as well as traditional health insurance. They also think that employers are funneling money down the drain as they make contributions for “the healthy.” A Medicare from of MSAs was slated to begin this year; however, no insurance companies have stepped up to the plate to offer the companion coverage required. Democrats say this is just another failure in the plan.

I wonder if the almost 15,000 previously uninsured users think the plan is a failure? When you have full accessibility to health insurance, it's easy to point to what's wrong with a plan that doesn't work for everyone.

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