Opinion: Better use of health savings accounts: lessons from Singapore

The U.S. health care system should heed the example of Singapore by shifting the financing of routine and shoppable care to health savings accounts.

Today, 9 in 10 Americans have health insurance, more than ever before, yet health care is less affordable than ever. Up to 100 million U.S. adults carry medical debt. Skyrocketing inflation is forcing people to decide between spending money on medical care or other necessities like food and housing. People typically spend thousands of dollars, in addition to premiums, before insurance kicks in. And rising out-of-pocket costs are just one side of the story: Health insurance premiums are going up, too. Employer-sponsored insurance cost a whopping $22,221 per family in 2021. That’s one-third of the median household income.

The insurance system in the U.S. is broken. Rather than continuing to plow money into insurance and expensive care, families should be stowing that cash away for future health care needs. That’s what they do in Singapore. There, people save toward their own health care needs via mandatory individual health savings accounts — with the government serving as the safety net.

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