In a recent Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) webcast, industry experts offered ways to approach employees about HSAs and strategies to be more effective in helping them meet their current and future needs.
Panelists in the June 10 webinar “HSA Thought Leadership: Challenging Conventional Thinking for Better Outcomes” included Ann Brisk, Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnership Director at HSA Bank; Dan Milfred, CFO and Senior Vice President at Pacific Woodtech; and moderator Laura Finn, Senior Consultant at Financial Finesse.
Implementing a Program that Entails HSAs
The panelists advocated an objective-based approach. They suggest:
- Make HSA resources relevant to your employees. For instance, Milfred advocated making HSAs part of a broader conversation, and Finn suggested offering employees coaching about saving money. “Make the process specific to individuals,” she said. “Executives sometimes are skeptical that employees will set aside money for HSAs,” Brisk observed, “but people will find the money if they have it.”
- Include stand-alone HSA courses to shed light on how they can help employees in all the stages of their careers. Make the sessions brief.
- Create dedicated HSA resources that can be integrated with education on disability leave, family expansions, retirement preparation packets, etc.
- Consider objective-based marketing that includes HSAs as well as resources from several vendors. For instance, one can suggest, “Dealing with medical debt? Here’s how your ABC benefits can assist you.”
They suggest that best practices include:
- Develop a multi-year strategy. “Having a plan is key,” said Milfred.
- Align plan design and HSA program to overall goals. “You must have an objective about how to cover employees,” said Milfred.
- Understand your demographics. “Understand your base. Understand the average age of your employees,” suggested Brisk, adding that the youngest and oldest employees are the most likely to use HSAs. Finn noted that more people feel overwhelmed about choices than did before, and that saving in an HSA may seem unattainable to some people.
- Price your high-deductible health plan (HDHP) attractively.
The panel advocated a variety of steps in building employee engagement with HSAs:
- Require active enrollment. This, the panel said, includes avoiding a default approach, helping employees “do the math” and providing employees with support for their decisions.
- Show “skin in the game.” Brisk suggested that employers that offer an HSA program are “putting skin in the game” and that doing so demonstrates an employer’s commitment to their employees. Doing that entails aggressive plan pricing, making seed contributions and matching contributions, the panel said.
The panel argued that matching contributions:
- are understood in the context of the 401(k) match, and is universally practiced;
- encourage an “active” role;
- significantly increase balances;
- save employer money;
- improve the perception that benefits have value; and
- improve employee retirement readiness.
“There are ways to engage them differently,” said Brisk. “Getting them to look at HSAs and saving holistically when solving for underlying issues will have better outcomes.”
So what does HSA success look like? The panelists suggest that an HSA, and a program entailing them, is a success if it results in:
- better ability to manage healthcare expenses, now and in the future;
- stronger understanding and engagement in health decisions;
- improved health outcomes;
- accelerated retirement readiness; and
- peace of mind and confidence in health and wealth outcomes.
“No one is worse off because of participating in an HSA,” said Milfred. “Anything you can do to resolve people’s hesitancy or stress about this is a good thing.”