Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif., will begin offering health savings accounts in its latest effort to remain competitive. The move is a departure for Kaiser, traditionally a staff-model HMO that has relied for 60 years on physicians to direct care and control costs. Kaiser joins a growing list of health insurers that have rolled out HSAs -- which pair a high-deductible insurance policy with a personal savings account controlled by the consumer -- in the wake of federal legislation passed last year.
Kaiser initially will offer its CarePay HSAs in Colorado, Georgia and the Northwest, which account for about 25% of its 8.3 million members. The company said it likely will extend the option to its core California market in 2006. HSAs are the latest concession Kaiser has made to employers' demands for more flexible, low-cost products. Kaiser began marketing a PPO for the first time in October 2003 and for the first time added deductibles to some health plans in April 2004. -- by Laura B. Benko