SAN FRANCISCO – A recent Visa USA study finds that adding a card-based element to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) may help boost program interest. In December 2003, Congress created HSAs to allow individuals to pay for current health expenses before federal income taxes and earn federal income tax exempt interest on funds saved for future medical expenses. According to the survey, while only 36% of consumers are aware of HSAs and understand its value, consumer interest increased by 40% when given the option to use a card to access account funds. "Consumers are being provided more options to maximize their healthcare dollars, while retaining greater control and more responsibility for managing their medical expenses," said Todd Brockman, senior vice president, prepaid products, Visa USA. "Adding a Visa card to a HSA program provides consumers with a secure and convenient way to access funds to pay for healthcare-related expenditures. It is our job as an industry to help consumers better understand the benefits of the choices available to them." The Visa survey also finds that 60% of respondents indicated an interest in contributing dollars to a tax-advantaged account, like a Health Savings Account and 67% of those surveyed find the ability to roll-over unused funds from year to year with an HSA of considerable interest. "We're actively supporting HSA trustees, insurance carriers, benefits administrators and financial institutions that want to incorporate Visa cards into their HSA product offerings to help get them in market quicker and educate their customers on the benefits these programs," said Brockman. First introduced in the late 1990s, employee benefit cards allow participants to directly access funds in their benefits accounts to pay for qualified expenses, rather than having to pay upfront for the expenses and wait to be reimbursed by the benefits administrator.

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