April 2, 2007 -- The number of Americans enrolled in health savings accounts has increased by 1.3 million since January 2006 to 4.4 million, according to America's Health Insurance Plans, a Washington-based trade group.

Health savings accounts, or HSAs, represent for 25 percent of all new insurance policies in the individual market and 17 percent in the small-group market, the group said.

As of January 2007, 65 percent of accounts had been in place for less than a year, while 88 percent had average annual balances of $2,500 or less, the group said.

Most businesses offering HSAs also provided preventative benefits, disease management services, and access to online information tools, among other services, the group said.

"Our members have worked effectively to create HSA products that are built on the widespread availability of first-dollar preventative coverage, disease management services, and online decision-support tools," Karen Ignagni, the group's president and CEO, said in a statement.

Health savings accounts were created by Congress in January 2004, in part to ease rising health-care costs for employers.

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Published on: Apr 2, 2007