Employees Need HSA Education, Especially Now

Education is vital for all benefits, and especially now for health insurance coverage, says Fidelity Investments.

Fidelity Investments has published a new report showing 89% of employees with a health savings account (HSA) believe the savings account has positively affected their livelihood.

At the same time, 72% agree that holistic financial wellness programs that consider things like health care expenses are valuable. While 92% of those surveyed say they are aware their company offers HSAs, only 50% have signed up for the savings vehicle. Likewise, 61% of respondents report they are aware of the telemedicine benefit offered by their plan, yet just 34% use the feature. Aside from promoting it, employers are encouraged to explain its value.

The report urges employers to understand why their workers use or sign up for a given benefit. For example, 62% of survey respondents state HSAs are valued because they help pay for health care in the short term. For employees who see a tool’s value but have yet to take advantage of it, Fidelity says, adding other types of engagement may prove useful, such as creating personal experiences, normalizing wellness practices and ensuring the user experience is streamlined. 

These engagement strategies are especially beneficial for employers that have changed benefits since the start of the year. According to Fidelity, one in four organizations have changed employee health benefits since the beginning of the pandemic. This hasn’t necessarily meant a reduction in health care coverage, says Hope Manion, chief health and welfare actuary and senior vice president at Fidelity Workplace Consulting. Instead, some employers are enhancing telemedicine, mental and emotional health coverage, and dependent care.

“There are two flavors of employers right now: those that have the ability to enhance benefit offerings and those that are really struggling to offer benefits because their business has been severely impacted,” she says. “Some employers are cutting back, but health insurance is the last thing they’ll touch. A lot of emphasis is on trying to get employees able to find a provider in their area or maybe a virtual arrangement. Dependent care is of big interest too, as well as extended or expanded paid time off [PTO] policies. It’s about trying to meet employees where they’re at, provide them with the flexibility and an ability to take care of their families, so they can be more productive at work.”

Whether it’s an expansion or reduction of benefits, the report suggests employers review their offerings during the enrollment process, especially when it comes to employees’ health insurance. According to the survey, 79% of employers do not expect to spend additional time evaluating benefits this year.

“If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that this is not a typical year and, arguably, we are approaching the most important annual enrollment we will ever experience in our lifetime. We cannot simply default our benefits like we may have done in previous years,” Manion says. “Given so many have experienced financial and health crises this year, now is the time to ensure they don’t overlook benefits that could impact their future health and financial well-being.”

Education and communications surrounding health care options can have lasting effects on employees and pre-retirees. According to Fidelity’s annual Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, a 65-year-old couple can expect to spend $295,000 on health care and medical expenses throughout retirement. For single retirees, the 2020 estimate is $155,000 for women and $140,000 for men. These figures are up from 2019’s report, and up from $250,000 for a couple in 2010.