Insights

Why Your Employees Aren’t Getting the Most from Their HSA

November 14, 2014

Employee Benefits

According to survey findings published in July 2014 by Alegus Technologies, 70 percent of people with health savings accounts (HSAs) don’t understand the full capacity of what it does. Part of this is due to lack of employer communication around the matter. But it seems most employers don’t necessarily know what they’re doing wrong.

“In terms of quality of communication and support, employers seem to think they are doing a better job than consumers perceive they are doing,” the report said; however, “consumer ratings were consistently 20 percent lower than employer ratings.”

Ouch. As employers who offer benefits programs to your employees, like it or not, the burden typically falls on you to provide communication and education around these programs.

And, the “devil is in the details” when communicating to employees about HSAs – and there are a lot of details. However, done correctly, you can make a positive impact on your employees’ perception of the HSA.

In previous posts, we discussed the increase in adoption of health savings accounts, and their importance as part of an overall benefits package. In this post, I’ll go over two ways to create an effective communication and implementation plan for your HSA, so everyone can get the most from it.

Make it Accessible

Putting the information out there is one thing; making sure that the information you’re offering is readily accessible and in a language that’s easy for employees to understand is another.

Employees are inundated with insurance lingo daily. With the launch of Affordable Care Act, and healthcare exchange issues on the brain, plus all the jumbled information around insurance at the workplace, it can be overwhelming and lead to “tune out.” Employers have a duty to help employees navigate what it all means. So, keep it simple, in a language they understand.

Accessibility to various modes of communication is important, too; people tend to latch on to a learning style that works for them.

According to the Alegus survey findings, 65 percent said communication about the health benefits happened only during open enrollment. Sixty percent said they relied on plan summary documents and enrollment forms to communicate account options, and as little as one-third offered “interactive tools such as plan comparison calculators,” the report said.

So consider a combination of communication tools, including print material, information posted on the intranet, in-person meetings with opportunities for Q&A, webinars, recordings and more.

The final aspect of accessibility is involving everyone who may be impacted by the HSA program. Some employers have gone the extra step of putting the  information outside their corporate firewall on a dedicated website. This allows employees and family members to easily reference it at home, so they have tools at their disposal. You might encourage spouses to attend benefits meetings and ask questions, too.

Finally, executive commitment is key to ensuring your communication works. Make sure senior leadership is encouraging those employees and their spouses to attend meetings, watch the videos and generally participate in understanding their benefits and how to make the most of what is offered.

Make it Stick

Some of this may be easier said than done, right? Implementing a communication shift at your place of business can be hard work, and will likely compete with all the other goals and deadlines you have. Where does the responsibility lie?

That’s when you should turn to and rely on expertise for help. To start, ask your insurance broker for help on putting together the communications materials required – or even ask them to communicate on your behalf, like in-person meetings and Q&A sessions.

Some companies work with third-party communications firms to implement the program. True, it’s an investment – but these professionals are experts in communicating benefits lingo and making it simple for employees to understand. A couple firms that come to mind are Benz Communications and Williamson Communications.

Another route to making it stick is an employee dedicated to benefits or HSA education. This article from Well-BeingStrategy.com suggests it’s time for a “chief engagement officer” on the employer side to help keep employees engaged with benefits programs.

CompassPHS.com says to consider a “consumerism coordinator” in house. Often, companies will have a dedicated person on staff called the “wellness coordinator.” The proposed consumerism coordinator would be similar, but specifically responsible for helping employees be better consumers when it comes to healthcare.

In sum, rolling out any benefits program can be a challenge – but specifically, HSAs are a complicated concept with benefits beyond the traditional health insurance program. Making the commitment to effective communication can make or break the adoption of HSAs by employees, which can directly affect the bottom line for your company.

See all articles by Dan Hodges

All views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the position of Woodruff-Sawyer & Co.

Dan Hodges

Senior Vice President, Benefits

Dan brings a uniquely analytical and sophisticated approach to employee benefits and risk management. With over 16 years of consulting experience, Dan has worked with a large cross-section of employers including those in healthcare, not-for-profits, hi-tech, service, and hospitality. In 2010, Dan was honored with the Excellence in Partnership with HR award from the Silicon Valley HR Symposium. His areas of specialization include managing large, multi-state clients as well as outsourced benefit administration.

415.878.2463

LinkedIn

Dan Hodges

Senior Vice President, Benefits

Dan brings a uniquely analytical and sophisticated approach to employee benefits and risk management. With over 16 years of consulting experience, Dan has worked with a large cross-section of employers including those in healthcare, not-for-profits, hi-tech, service, and hospitality. In 2010, Dan was honored with the Excellence in Partnership with HR award from the Silicon Valley HR Symposium. His areas of specialization include managing large, multi-state clients as well as outsourced benefit administration.

415.878.2463

LinkedIn