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Why Your Employees Aren’t Enrolling In Your HDHP

Jeff Griffin

Employers looking to decrease their healthcare costs often rely on workforce adoption of High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs), which offer both employers and employees lower premiums. Unfortunately, if employees are given a choice, this strategy doesn’t always work if enrollment in HDHPs fall short of forecasts.

Rightly or wrongly, HDHPs have been saddled with some baggage. Many people have difficulty making the cognitive leap from traditional healthcare plans to HDHPs for a variety of reasons; in part because change is generally difficult for people, but sometimes, it’s simply a fear of the unknown and a matter of not understanding how they work.

While we certainly aren’t advocating that HDHPs are suitable for everyone, they’re a great fit for some. Particularly, those who are otherwise overpaying for health insurance, meaning that they’re paying high premiums, but rarely using their plans.

Here are some reasons your employees might not be enrolling in your HDHP — and how you can increase HDHP enrollment.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Education, HSAs, High Deductible Health Plans

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Is Your High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) HSA Qualified?

Jeff Griffin

As healthcare costs rapidly started to rise in the 2000s, insurance companies started to push high deductible health plans, which came with lower monthly premiums, but higher than average deductibles. That trend has continued to the present day, where HDHPs (high deductible health plans) are as popular as ever among employers.

According to the
Kaiser Family Foundation, employers offering HDHPs with some kind of savings option has increased 25 percent over the past decade. In fact, 29 percent of workers covered by employer-sponsored health plans are now enrolled in a high deductible health plan.

One of the major perks of being enrolled in an HDHP is the ability for employees to open and contribute to an HSA (health savings account) — but what many employers (and employees) don’t realize is that not all health plans with high deductibles are eligible for this benefit. So how do you know if your high deductible health plan is HSA qualified?

What is an HSA?

An HSA is a tax-advantaged savings account designated for qualifying health expenditures. This means that funds which employees, employers (or both) contribute to an HSA are not subject to tax, thereby lowering the participant's taxable income for the year. While participants can contribute any amount they like, the government caps tax-advantaged funds for 2021 at $3,600 for individuals and $7,200 for families. 

For people who have experience with FSAs (flexible spending accounts), the concept is very similar. FSAs, designed to offset health and dependent care expenses, are sometimes made available through employer-sponsored benefit programs. The main difference is that funds contributed to an FSA  “expire” at the end of year in what’s called the “use it or lose it” rule. Net, if FSA participants don’t use their entire contribution, they forfeit whatever is left over.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, employee benefits broker, HSAs

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2021 IRS Contribution Limits For HSA, HDHP, FSA, 401(k), QSEHRA, Adoption and Transportation

Jeff Griffin

The IRS recently finalized adjustments to 2021 contribution limits on various tax-advantaged health and dependent care spending accounts, retirement plans, and other employee benefits such as adoption assistance and qualified transportation benefits. Many of these contribution limits, though not all, are indexed to cost-of-living adjustments.

Together, these annual announcements by the IRS detail any adjusted limits to the amounts employees can tuck away pretax into Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Commuter Benefits, and Retirement Plans such as 401(k)s for the upcoming year.

While IRS limits for HSAs are required, by law, to be announced by June 1st, limits for these other pretax savings vehicles always seem to come so late in the year that many employers have already completed their employee benefits open enrollments.

As frustrating as this is, employers would be well-served to get this information out to their employees so they can take full advantage of these pretax savings vehicles. That said, there are not all that many changes for 2021.

What follows is a summary of limits employers and employees need to know.

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Topics: Compliance, Employee Communications, HSAs, Retirement Planning, HDHPs, FSAs

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Retirement Savings Options: Are HSAs better than 401(k)s?

David Rook

Retirement savings are on everyone’s mind these days, regardless of age or number of years in the workforce. Millennials are concerned they’ll never be able to retire, while baby boomers are choosing to delay retirement — in part because of employer demand for their expertise in the face of a low unemployment rate, but also because many of them haven’t sufficiently saved for retirement. In fact, according to Time’s Money division, 28 percent of boomers and seniors aged 55 and older don’t have any retirement savings whatsoever and just over half have less than $50,000 saved.

Even more surprising, the median amount Americans have saved for retirement is just $5,000, which means we have a long way to go in helping people prepare for their golden years. This number may seem staggeringly low — and it is. The average retirement savings among Americans age 32 to 61 is just under $96,000. However, averages are pulled up by super-savers, so this number seems artificially high.

With the prevalence of high deductible health plans (HDHPs), a lot of people are now enrolled in health savings accounts (HSAs). While people are mostly familiar with the short-term savings opportunities these accounts provide for healthcare expense reimbursement, many are also realizing that HSAs are a viable retirement savings option as well.

This begs the question — if people had to choose between investing in their 401(k) or maxing out their HSA for the year, which one is a better retirement savings option?

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Topics: Employee Benefits, HSAs, Retirement Planning

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IRS Provides Relief to Those with Overfunded FSAs

Jeff Griffin

With daycare centers closed and summer camps turning kids away, employees who socked away money in their Dependent Care Flexible Savings Accounts (DCFSAs) are worried their use-it-or-lose-it account balances are going down the drain.

This concern is also shared by those who tucked away pre-tax savings in Health Care Flexible Savings Accounts (HCFSAs) to cover eligible health care expenditures. With hospitals postponing elective procedures and patients skittish about entering health care facilities, savers simply aren't racking up enough receipts to deplete their FSA balances.

Both groups can now breathe a sigh of relief, since new guidance from the IRS will allow most employees to make midyear pre-tax contribution adjustments to their Health Care and Dependent Care FSAs, which typically aren't permitted once enrollment elections are set.

Historically, the only exception to this rule was if an employee experienced a Qualifying Life Event (QLE), defined by the IRS as a marriage, divorce, job change, birth or adoption of a child, or when a dependent child reaches age 26.

In addition to allowing midyear savings account adjustments, the IRS is also permitting midyear health plan enrollment changes.

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Topics: Legislation, HSAs, FSAs, COVID-19

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IRS Finally Announces Official Contribution Caps For FSAs, 401(k)s, HSAs and More (Includes Comparison Tables)

Jeff Griffin

This afternoon the IRS officially announced the final 2020 election/contribution limits for Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), qualified Commuter Benefits, and several retirement savings vehicles. (See comparison tables, below.)

Considering that many employers have already held their employee benefits Open Enrollments for 2020, today’s announcements by the IRS can best be filed under the “better late than never” category.

These IRS statements finally set official contribution limits for Health Care FSAs, Dependent Care FSAs, Limited Purpose FSAs, Qualified Parking and Qualified Transportation Saving Plans, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, most 457 plans, IRAs, SIMPLE Plans, and the Federal Government’s Thrift Savings Plan.

All of these saving plans provide participants with the opportunity to save money, either by paying for qualified expenses with pre-tax savings contributions, or by saving for retirement with pretax elections. 

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Topics: Compliance, Employee Communications, HSAs, Retirement Planning, HDHPs, FSAs

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What is a Limited Purpose FSA? (And Should You Offer One?)

Jeff Griffin

With the rising cost of health insurance, many consumers are opting for high deductible health plans (HDHPs) to keep their medical premiums affordable, especially when they’re relatively young, comparatively healthy, and don't spend much of their budget each year visiting a doctor. However, many people enrolled in qualified HDHPs are disappointed to learn they can no longer, by law, participate in a traditional flexible spending account (FSA). 

The nature of how these plans are designed leaves some wondering how they’ll cover all the expenses incurred prior to reaching their deductible, which has led to the rise of health savings accounts (HSAs) and limited purpose flexible spending accounts (LPFSAs).

Only those enrolled in qualified HDHPs are eligible to open an HSA and reap the tax benefits, but many are unaware that they’re also eligible to open a limited purpose FSA (providing their employer offers one), which frees up the money in their HSA for future use — even retirement. 

What Is a Limited Purpose FSA?

HSAs are usually a major selling point of HDHPs. They allow participants to set aside a portion of their income from each paycheck in order to pay for qualifying healthcare expenses. Limited purpose FSAs are like HSAs in that participants can contribute a specific amount from each paycheck. LPFSAs are like traditional FSAs in that they make funds available immediately, rather than forcing you to wait until enough money has accumulated to access the money you need for necessary vision and dental care (whereas HSAs require funds to be in the account before reimbursement can occur).  

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Topics: HSAs, Consumer Driven Healthcare, High Deductible Health Plans, Savings Plans

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Preventive Care Coverage Improves For High Deductible Health Plans

Jeff Griffin

The IRS has added care for a range of chronic conditions to the list of preventive care benefits that can be provided by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) without a deductible.

This expansion of preventive care services is in response to an executive order signed on June 27 by President Trump. The order, designed to improve price and quality transparency in health care, directed the Treasury Department and IRS to improve the attractability of HSA-compatible HDHPs which cover low-cost preventive care, before the deductible.

The IRS issued Notice 2019-45 in response to this executive order. With this order now in place, it now classifies certain medical care services and items, including prescription drugs for chronic conditions, as preventive care for individuals with certain chronic conditions. 

Employers with HDHPs should review their plan documents and consult with their benefits broker, carriers and benefit administrators to determine how their plans might cover these new preventive care benefits on a go-forward basis. 

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Topics: Cost Containment, Education, HSAs, High Deductible Health Plans

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Common Pitfalls To Avoid With Your High Deductible Health Plan

Jeff Griffin

Employers looking to decrease their healthcare costs often rely on workforce adoption of High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs), which offer both employers and employees lower premiums. Unfortunately, this strategy doesn’t always work out if enrollment in HDHPs (assuming employees are given a choice) fall short of forecasts.

Rightly or wrongly, HDHPs have been saddled with some baggage. Many people have difficulty making the cognitive leap from traditional healthcare plans to HDHPs for a variety of reasons; in part because change is generally difficult for people, but sometimes, it’s simply a fear of the unknown and a matter of not understanding how they work.

While we certainly aren’t advocating that HDHPs are suitable for everyone, they’re a great fit for some — especially those who are otherwise overpaying for health insurance, meaning that they’re paying high premiums, but rarely using their plans.

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when designing and marketing a high deductible health plan and suggestions on how to avoid them.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Education, HSAs, High Deductible Health Plans

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Active vs. Passive Open Enrollment; Weighing the Pros & Cons

David Rook

Employers who offer health benefits are  required each year to hold a benefits enrollment "window", commonly referred to as an open enrollment period. 

During open enrollment, employees can renew, adjust, or waive benefit options. Outside of a Qualifying Life Event, open enrollment is essentially the only time an employee can make changes to most (though not all) of their benefits. 

While an employer is required, by law, to hold an open enrollment, what's not defined is whether the enrollment needs to be structured as "active" or "passive". A passive enrollment period is one where an employee's benefit selections from the previous year simply roll-over and/or auto-migrate (within reason) to similar options. An active enrollment, on the other hand, requires an employee to elect, renew, adjust, and sometimes actively decline benefit elections. (The SPD and other plan documents will usually spell out these rules for employees.)

In a nationwide survey conducted by the JP Griffin Group this April, 2019 amongst full-time, benefit-eligible employees in the U.S., 50 percent (half) reported participating in a passive enrollment this year. Compared to a 2011 survey of employers, where 71% reported holding passive enrollments, these new findings represent a 30% decrease in the number of companies conducting their open enrollments passively.

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Topics: HSAs, passive enrollment, open enrollment, active enrollment, Strategy, FSAs, 401(k)s

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