Finance News & Insights

Want to do away with your costly traditional health plan? HSAs are the key

Many finance chiefs are hoping to fully replace their traditional health plans with a high-deductible option in the near future — and the sooner the better. And when employers get workers to take full advantage of an HSA option, this transition becomes much, much easier.

After all, these tax-advantaged accounts are the best way to safeguard employees from the hefty price tag of satisfying a high deductible. Once employees get over the sticker shocker of a high-deductible option, it becomes much easier to increase participation and, eventually, move to an HDHP-only workforce.

Unfortunately, most workers don’t fund or utilize their HSAs as effectively as they should. In fact, 40%-50% of HSA-eligible individuals don’t even have an HSA.

Two factors that are critical to HSA success with employees:

  1. The right HSA administrator, and
  2. The proper communication.

Before your selection

The new whitepaper entitled “Health Savings Accounts: Achieving Optimal Results for Employer Programs,” offered an array of best practices and practical case studies employers could use to improve their workforce’s HSA usage.

These days, there are a host of HSA administrators promising top-caliber service. Unfortunately, many of these vendors fail to live up to their claims. That’s why it’s so important for Finance to properly vet the HSA administrator to make sure it’ll do everything it says.

Here are a few questions employers should ask before selecting an HSA administrator:

  • What type of features does the administrator offer (ability to view and pay medical, dental and vision claims directly from the HSA, ways to store receipts from the HSA online, text and email alerts, call center help, etc.)?
  • How will the administrator’s program gibe with your company (Will it be easy for your Finance, HR and Benefits departments to use? Is the process for sending electronic files to the administrator and contributions painless and easy-to-use? What type of reporting is provided to manage and measure the success of the HSA program?)
  • Will the administrator share in the communication (Does it offer online or on-site support for open enrollment? Will the administrator train your in-house Finance, HR or Benefits staffers? Is communication material available in Spanish?)

3 best practices

Of course, the overall success of HSA initiative ultimately rests with the employer. If companies want to get the most out of an HSA initiative, it’s imperative to put a premium on their in-house communications.

Here are some of the communication best practices from the whitepaper:

Make an investment. HSA incentives are worth the upfront investment, and often pay dividends when employers do their homework and find the right incentive for their particular workforce. There are plenty of strategies for incentivizing your employees’ HSA effectively. For example, some firms match employees’ HSA contributions (in a manner similar to the 401(k) match) while others offer wellness incentives in the form of HSA contributions. The key is offering something on your end to get employees to participate.

Start early … really early. If you’re serious about moving to an HDHP-only plan, benefits experts says it’s a good idea to start your HSA communications six months before open enrollment. It’s also a good idea to create — in writing — specific pre-enrollment, enrollment and post-enrollment goals and track your progress hitting those goals.

Avoid loaded buzzwords. Research has shown that employers have the most success converting employees to high-deductible health plans when they avoid using the phrase “high-deductible health plan” in their communications with employees. What works better: Positive descriptions such as “Consumer-Directed Health Plan,” “Lower-Premium Plan,” or “HSA-Compatible Plan.”

 

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