Posted by: danielrashke | September 29, 2009

It’s All in the Numbers

In July and August of 2009, Nielsen Consumer Research conducted a survey of Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Participants.  The purpose of the research was to better understand the number and types of consumers who are currently covered by FSAs, how they use FSAs, and their perceptions of FSAs overall.  As the debate over healthcare and the proposed changes to FSAs continues, the findings of this survey help put this issue in perspective.

Some key survey findings include:

  • An estimated 33 million Americans participate in FSAs either as a Participant or as a dependent of a Participant.
  • Forty-two percent of FSA Participants contribute more than $2,000 a year; the mean contribution per Participant is $1,569 per year.
  • Almost 35 percent of Participants live in households income with less than $55,000, while for 73 percent household income is under $100,000.  The mean household income for all FSA Participants is $77,625.
  • Participation is disbursed across all age groups, with nearly 60 percent under the age of 44.
  • Participants use their FSA dollars for these top five types of expenses: prescription drugs, medical office visits, dental office visits, eye care, and over-the-counter medications.

The findings clearly indicate that a large number of middle-class Americans participate in a FSA.  Also interesting is the number of Participants who contribute more than $2,000 a year to their FSA.  The $2,000 yearly cap on FSA contributions that has been proposed in the Senate Finance Committee’s America’s Healthy Future Act would affect nearly half of all Participants.

Beyond the numbers, there some other enlightening facts to be gleaned from the survey findings.  For example, 89 percent of FSA Participants believe the benefit is important and 51 percent claim that losing the benefit would have detrimental effect on them. Seventy percent of the respondents feel that participation in a FSA is an essential part of their family’s healthcare budget, with 62 percent stating that if they had no FSA they would have to take funds from other important sources to afford their family’s healthcare.

Not surprisingly, 91 percent agree that FSAs should remain an option for Americans, 87 percent agree that more Americans should be able to have access to a FSA, and 85 percent agree that continued availability of FSAs should be part of any healthcare reform legislation.  Also not surprising, 84 percent of the Participants stated that they would contribute more to their FSA if there was no risk of losing funds at the end of the year.

So what is the big takeaway from this survey?  Large numbers of middle-class Americans depend on FSAs to afford healthcare and strongly believe that any healthcare reform bill should include continuation of Flexible Spending Accounts.  At TASC, we agree 100 percent.


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