In the United States, and in other developed countries, healthcare is treated more like a necessity than a benefit, contrary to the way how most developing countries prioritize the provision for healthcare and other health and wellness-related services, wherein it is perceived more like a luxury. This is one of the main reasons why there are a lot of thriving health and medical insurance companies in the U.S. and other developed countries. The citizens in those places are willing to pay a premium just to get the best healthcare services for themselves and their family members, who basically act as dependents in a family health savings account, from the locally available healthcare resources and infrastructures. In short, the availability and the use of healthcare resources in such place are optimized. Today, there are a lot of ways how an individual, or a group of people, a family if you will, can conveniently and thriftily spend their hard-earned money for healthcare services be it for primary (preventive), secondary, or tertiary healthcare purposes. The objective of this paper is to discuss the different possible ways how governments can provide accessible and appropriate healthcare services for its citizens. Some of the proposed ways are through HSAs (Health Savings Accounts), Archer MSAs (Medical Savings Accounts), Medicare Advantage MSAs, FSAs (Health Flexible Spending Arrangements), and HRAs (Health Reimbursement Arrangements). So far, these healthcare plans or packages are available in the United States under the provision and supervision of the Internal Revenue Service or the IRS. The objective of this paper is to discuss what these healthcare service plans or packages are for, and how some evidences gathered from previous experiences in availing of these can be applied to other countries, particularly to Egypt, so that policy makers there can have liberal ideas in improving the already-available healthcare plans and services in the country.
Health Savings and Accounts and other Tax Favored Health Plans
Health Savings Accounts
Permission to avail of or grant Health Savings Accounts is managed and supervised by the Internal Revenue Service. Basically, a Health Savings Account works like a trust fund that enables eligible members to set up and withdraw money from, in times wherein acute or immediate medical attention is needed. The way how this trust fund works may also be closely compared to how a custodial account works. There can be three groups of participant in HSAs. The first group would be the dependents, the second the trustee, the third would of course be the medical facility or the healthcare service provider (in case the healthcare service was sought from a private practitioner). The trustee is to pay for or reimburse a certain percentage of the total accumulated medical expenses of the grantee or the dependent. Some of the advantages of HSAs over other healthcare plans are that: first, any contributions that any contributors (employers, donors, etc.) make to an individual’s Health Savings Account are usually paired with certain values of tax deduction—in some cases, HSAs are exempted from taxes; second, contributions made by an H.S.A. eligible individual’s employer are not usually added in his income statement; third, the contributions can last for years as long as they are not exhausted—they can easily accumulate especially if the employer keeps on contributing large sums to the account.
Medical Savings Accounts
Medical Savings Accounts or MSAs were intended to be the preferred healthcare service plan for self-employed individuals or even owners of small enterprises that employ a small group of employees. An Archer MSA on the other hand is simply a tax-exempt variant of an ordinary Medical Savings Accounts that interested and eligible individuals can apply for in a bank or any insurance company. An individual’s credit account associated with these two can be used for future medical expenses . The advantages of MSAs—including Archer MSAs are basically the same with that of an HAS only that MSAs follow specific guidelines or protocols in determining which medical expenses would be qualified for coverage.
Flexible Spending Arrangements
Flexible Spending Arrangements or FSAs are focused on the reimbursement of overall medical expenses after the dependents which are usually the employees granted with FSAs, have already paid for them. Just like any other healthcare plans, FSAs are funded through contributions which can come from the employer, or through voluntary salary deduction. FSAs also carry the same benefits that a Health Savings Accounts have, except the portability and the large coverage of medical expenses.
Health Reimbursement Arrangements
Health Reimbursement Arrangements is simply a more restricted type of an FSA. This is because unlike an FSA—wherein contributions can come from both the employee and the employer, contributions in an HRA can only come from the employer and not in any part from the employee even from voluntary salary deduction. There is also a maximum or a ceiling dollar amount that can be reimbursed to the dependents. The good thing about HRAs is that individuals who already have HRAs can still avail of other healthcare plans such as FSAs or HSAs, provided that they are also eligible to apply for those plans.
The fair and systematic management of healthcare services in the United States is one of the reasons why it has one of the most advanced health and medical facilities and highest quality medical services not only in their region but in the whole world. Healthcare for the citizens are not funded by their own pockets but by large medical insurance companies. The U.S. government also has something to do with the continuous progressiveness of the healthcare industry in the country. Based on how policies are made and how frequent and regular they are updated, it appears that healthcare is indeed one of the government’s foci and that they see healthcare not a luxury but a necessity.
Health Savings and Accounts and other Tax Favored Health Plans in relation to Egypt
The healthcare provisions that the Egyptian government has offered and offers to its citizens can be considered mediocre at best. The details explaining, although indirectly, how the United States runs its healthcare and medical industry can be of use to the Egyptian government. They, of course, cannot copy the exact healthcare laws and provisions that the U.S. currently has for its citizens but they can at least use it as a pattern for improving their current healthcare service.
Egypt’s healthcare industry pales in comparison with that of the U.S. but it is definitely not too late to start the revamps. Sure, the example that the U.S. government has set in managing one of its citizens’ essential needs—healthcare that is, through Health Savings Account and other Tax Favored Health Plans is not a perfect one—in fact it is still far from perfect and healthcare industry analysts can still point and show numerous loopholes in the system, but the good thing about it is that they provide stability, system, and organization to the process of receiving healthcare and appropriately compensating the organizations and professionals who exerted effort to deliver the deliverables, all of which leads to a mutually-benefiting situation.