The Role of HSAs in Financial Wellness and Retirement

Financial providers can partner with employers to offer the benefit and help employees achieve their goals.

As more workers invest their health savings account (HSA) balances to achieve retirement security, more financial providers are partnering with employers to offer the benefit. 

Experts at the virtual 2021 PLANSPONSOR HSA Conference discussed how financial wellness and retirement are integrated, and how employers can work with their providers and maximize HSAs to help employees achieve both financial wellness and retirement security.

One topic that came up throughout the discussion was the idea of decoupling HSAs from high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). Traditionally, the benefit has been offered with these plans to help offset the high costs associated with them. Separating the two and offering the benefit to other employees could grow participation and therefore help more employees achieve increased savings, noted Inci Kaya, senior analyst at Aite Group’s Health Insurance Practice.

“There’s a lot of market growth and head growth to expand,” she said. “If HSAs can be uncoupled from HDHPs and made broader to those with any type of health care, that would be one possibility to expand.”

Financial advisers working with employers on HSAs could also help grow participation, but providers must first be incentivized to create such a partnership, Kaya added. Traditionally, HSAs are organized through a health plan broker and a third-party administrator (TPA), not a financial adviser.

“If we can find a way to make it a compelling offering for the broader community of financial advisers, then you have room,” Kaya added. “If we can make it worth their while to sell these products, that’s one way.”

Greg Puig, vice president of benefits consulting services at Sentinel Benefits and Financial Group, said he believes one of the best solutions to add an HSA into a plan design is to partner with firms that understand the offering and have knowledge about the benefit. “Take a step back and look at who you are working with today, and make sure they have the knowledge base and the relationships to integrate these conversations,” he said.

Amy Ray, director, advice and wellness product development, Transamerica, said it’s important to integrate retirement and HSA benefits. She said it’s especially helpful to offer them on the same online platform. The idea is that every time a participant logs onto a site to view their retirement or HSA, they should see both benefits side-by-side. This way, participants are not only seeing the two together, but they’re memorizing one portal, login and password, which can incentivize them to engage more often with the benefits, Ray added.

The advantages of managing one single platform extend to the employer, too, as plan sponsors can offer their benefits all in one space. It can be difficult for plan sponsors who receive different materials from several providers, rather than one, to integrate and work with that information. By working with one provider, “you can analyze the trends and get engaged with how [participants] are using the different benefits,” Ray said.