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High-deductible health plan enrollment grows significantly: NCHS

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The percentage of employees enrolled in high-deductible health care plans has significantly increased during the past five years, according to a recent government study.

During the first quarter of 2013, 30.3% of group health care plan participants were enrolled in a high-deductible plan, up from 17.1% in 2008, the National Center for Health Statistics said in a report released last month.

The unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines a high-deductible health plan as one with deductibles of $1,250 for self-only coverage and $2,500 for family coverage in 2013. That compares with a deductible of $1,100 for self-only coverage and $2,200 for family coverage in 2008.

Health plan enrollees opting to contribute to a flexible spending account also increased. During the first quarter of this year, 22.8% of health care plan participants were covered by an FSA, up from 18.7% in 2008. Under the health care reform law, the maximum annual contribution employees can make this year to an FSA is $2,500. In 2008, there was no such limit, though employers often placed a $4,000 to $5,000 annual cap on contributions.

The NCHS study also found a big increase in the percentage of young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 with private health insurance coverage.

During the first quarter of 2013, 56.9% of those between 19 through 25 were covered by a health insurance plan, up from 51% in 2010.

That big increase in coverage coincided with a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision, which generally went into effect Jan. 1, 2011, that requires group plans to extend coverage to employees' adult children up to their 26th birthday.