NAPLES — Chances are that a gathering of friends who work at different companies can speak the same language when it comes to their health insurance.
The acronym HSA, which stands for health savings account, is not as strange as it once was; the same goes for high-deductible health plans, or HDHP.
Seven years ago when HSAs tied to high-deductible plans launched, few companies took the leap to reduce their health-care costs.
That's all changed and enrollment has tripled in the past five years to 13.5 million people nationwide, according to the latest survey finding by America's Health Insurance Plans, a leading insurance trade group. Ninety-seven health insurance companies responded to the survey.
From last year to this year alone, HSA enrollment jumped 18 percent. The greatest acceleration of enrollment was among large companies.
The study doesn't offer a breakdown of how much of the total health insurance market is now high-deductible plans with HSAs.
Florida nevertheless is fifth among the states with the highest enrollment in HSAs with 539,778 individuals. California has the highest enrollment followed by Texas, Illinois and Ohio.
The issue of health insurance costs isn't something leaders of Southwest Florida companies have been talking about as of late, said Mike Reagen, president of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce.
"The general sense I get is it's about the same. People are attempting to hold on as best they can," he said, adding that he hasn't heard of any local companies intending to drop coverage for workers.
David Miller, executive director of the Chamber of Southwest Florida, shared that sentiment.
"I haven't gotten a lot of feedback from our members," he said.
The survey findings appear to be accurate for Southwest Florida, said Wayne Sakamoto, president of Health Insurance Interactive, which serves the local market.
"I'm glad to see that more and more employers and consumers are opting to enroll in these (plans), as an option for consumers to empower themselves to save for their future personal health-care expenses, on a tax favored basis," said Sakamoto, also the past president of the Southwest Florida Association of Underwriters.
High deductible plans, ranging from $1,200 to $6,050 annually for a single person, were developed as a way to reduce monthly premiums.
The average monthly premium for a single person in Florida in a high deductible plan is $325 and $740 for family coverage.
Coupled with the HSAs, the intent is to motivate people to have a stake in their well-being. Companies generally make contributions to the accounts and so do employees through payroll deductions before taxes. The savings is then used to pay deductibles and other medical expenses.
Despite the intentions, a separate RAND Corp. study earlier this year found enrollees are scrimping on doctor visits when they are sick or on tests because of their out-of-pocket cost.
Tammy Read, director of human resources for the Naples Philharmonic, said employees appear happy with the high deductible plan and some have opted to spend more for a traditional preferred provider organization, or PPO.
"Overall, employees seem to be pleased. It allows them to save money (for medical expenses)," she said. "We find that the employees that utilize it like it."
One reason for offering the traditional managed-care plan is that Medicare eligible employees, by law, cannot participate in HSAs, she said.
Where high-deductible plans with HSAs aren't making gains is in the individual or small group market, Sakomoto said.
And when the plans are purchased by individuals, not a lot of them are making contributions to their HSAs, which is discouraging, he said.
"Every year consumers make contributions to their HSAs, they are building equity and savings for when a catastrophic medical event occurs," he said. "As their balances increase significantly, consumers can afford to opt for a much higher deductible allowed by the Department of Treasury on deductibles and out-of-pocket limits."
What is missing from the trade industry survey is what percentage of individuals make contributions to their HSAs, he said.