What do employees want from their health care benefits? Benefit administrators spend a lot of time trying to answer this question, especially when planning for the next Open Enrollment period.
Knowing how your benefits package is perceived by employees can determine how effective you can be at accomplishing a variety of benefits goals, including this common one: increasing high deductible health plan (HDHP) adoption.
Following the rabbit hole further, HDHP adoption rates will largely depend on how widely employees recognize the benefits of health savings accounts (HSAs) and other tax-advantaged health accounts, which can enable account holders to pay for the increased out-of-pocket expenses that accompany an HDHP.
To assess the most important factors that influence employees’ decisions to utilize HSA benefits, ConnectYourCare surveyed more than 14,000 employees enrolled in or eligible for consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs).
The results – captured in our survey report, Consumer-Driven Health Plan (CDHP) Enrollment & Usage Trends – may help you better understand your employees’ perspective.
Let’s look at some of the key HSA statistics that benefits administrators should know.
Future health care costs are certainly looming large for employees.
The primary reason respondents said they chose to enroll in an HSA-based plan specifically was “the ability to use HSAs as a savings vehicle for future health care needs” – selected by 41% of employee respondents.
By comparison, “tax savings” and “lower premiums” – other typical CDHP enrollment drivers – were selected by 21% and 10% of respondents, respectively.
While on the subject of the future, it seems retirement health care costs are more likely to keep people up at night than paying for other essentials like their homes or vehicles.
Here’s one of the stats that caught me off guard from this survey:
Sixty-three percent of employee respondents said their biggest retirement concern was health care expenses like insurance premiums, medical expenses, and prescription costs versus 31.5% that said they were most concerned about lifestyle expenses like housing, vacations, and vehicles.
Previous account experience was the most valuable resource benefits participants said they consider when deciding whether or not to enroll in HSAs, FSAs, and other consumer-driven health care (CDH) accounts – selected by nearly 40% of respondents.
Experience thus seems to have greater influence than even third party resources like enrollment communications and savings calculators, which were selected by 22% and 17% of respondents respectively.
Behind those top-3 responses, 12% of employees said advice from friends, family members, or financial advisors was the most valuable resource when making an enrollment decision.
Just 3% of survey participants identified enrollment fairs as the most useful pre-enrollment activity.
Based on those enrollment findings, it’s not surprising that experience appears to be the key influencer dictating whether or not enrollees will utilize HSAs and other health accounts to the fullest moving forward as well.
Most employee respondents (58.6%) said past spending habits would be their biggest consideration when determining how much they’ll contribute to their HSA and/or FSA in the future.
Given the above, it’s encouraging to find that many benefits stakeholders regard providing a positive experience for employees their top priority when selecting their company’s CDH vendor.
Asked to rate the importance of several factors considered when evaluating health account vendors, 84.9% of benefits decision makers we surveyed rated “employee customer service” as very important. Likewise, “overall employee experience” was designated very important by 81% of respondents.
By comparison, the price of the benefits solution was rated as very important by 66.4% respondents.
These results indicate organizations are prioritizing employee customer service and the overall employee benefits experience — even over the companies’ cost of benefits.
That’s now a necessity, as the evolution of tax-advantaged health accounts continues to go lockstep with expanded account holder expectations.
The above HSA statistics would suggest employers need to adjust expectations for enrollment fairs accordingly, and place even greater emphasis on providing employees with timely emails and other communications articulating the value of combining a HDHP with a tax-advantaged HSA, FSA, and/or HRA.
And if you are saying to yourself, “I’m already doing that,” you may wish to put your communications plan under a microscope and look at exactly how you are discussing future healthcare costs.
Remember, approximately 40% of HSA participants said the primary reason they enrolled in an HSA was because of the ability to use them as a way to save for future health care expenses.
While you may already do a great job of explaining short-term HSA benefits when it comes to paying for their yearly out-of-pocket expenses, are you doing enough to emphasize how HSAs can be used to prepare for retirement and inflating health care costs?
Helping employees take on a “saver mentality” so they can adequately plan for future health care costs – especially when it comes time to retire – is a challenge and a responsibility.
Advocating long-term HSA benefits in company communications is one way you can help.
Just as workers had to pivot from pensions to 401ks decades ago, they must now find a way to bear even more personal responsibility for looming health care retirement costs.
HSAs are a prime vehicle for doing so, and employers’ communications should incorporate that particular HSA benefits message.
Those communications can be complemented with access to savings calculators and other tools that employees access to compare multiple financial scenarios before making enrollment and contribution decisions – items they identified in our survey as helpful tools.
Finally, you also need to have a process in place for collecting and analyzing employee feedback about current and past benefits packages so that insight can serve as the foundation for HR’s CDH communication and resource planning moving forward.