George Hodan / Creative Commons

Republicans view health savings accounts — mechanisms for people to set aside untaxed money to pay for medical expenses — as a crucial part of pushing people to have "skin in the game" and pay for their own health care.

A plethora of HSA providers exist, many of which are run through banks or credit unions. UnitedHealth Group, the largest health insurer in the company, has its own HSA affiliate called Optum Bank. A glance at one of the biggest standalone HSA companies, HealthEquity, shows there's a lot of money to be made at running the relatively low-maintenance accounts.

HealthEquity collects revenue three ways:

From health insurers and employers that want to offer HealthEquity's HSA services. Monthly administrative fees (also known as "custodial fees") paid by insurers, employers or members. Fees from providers every time someone swipes their HSA card.

How HealthEquity is faring: Business has been booming as more employers steer workers into high-deductible health plans that are paired with HSAs. But there's been longstanding criticism that HSAs are another tax shelter that don't help lower-income people who don't have a lot of money to set aside for medical care.

HealthEquity collected $55.4 million in revenue in the first quarter of this calendar year, up 26% from the same time a year ago. The bigger deal is HealthEquity's profit, which jumped 74% to $14 million. That means for every $1 HealthEquity gets for handling HSAs, it gets to keep a shiny quarter. That kind of profit margin is on par with the pharmaceutical industry, which usually has the highest margins in health care.

The Wall Street factor: HealthEquity's stock is up 69% since President Trump was elected. That growth has fattened the pay packages of top executives like CEO Jon Kessler, who took home more than $19 million last year.

Go deeper

Deadly storm Zeta pummels parts of Alabama and Florida

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Former Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a downed power line electrocuted a 55-year-old in Louisiana as the storm's powerful winds and heavy rainfall moved into Alabama overnight.

What's happening: After "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi," Zeta weakened to a tropical storm over central Alabama early on Thursday, per the National Hurricane Center.

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else in the world has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing," along with the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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