How to Motivate Employees to Participate in HSAs

Jeff Griffin

As the cost of traditional group health insurance has gone up, high deductible health plans (HDHPs) with tax-advantaged health savings accounts (HSAs) have become increasingly popular among employers of all sizes. But offering a HDHP is only helpful if employees, assuming they’re given a choice, then choose to adopt them. And employees who are most satisfied with HDHPs are the ones who make the most of a HDHP’s best feature, the HSA.

HSAs (which are only available with a qualifying HDHP) are primarily designed to help employees offset the high out-of-pocket costs which come along with HDHPs by allowing both employers and employees to contribute dollars into a special savings account. (Employee contributions are made on a pretax basis.) Because HSA funds roll-over and can eventually be converted into retirement savings, savvy employees have quickly learned how to take advantage of these accounts and those who can afford it are maximizing this benefit to the full extent of the contribution limits, which currently stand at $3,400 for an individual and $6,750 for a family.

That said, the average HSA participant can’t afford to max out this benefit. In fact, most HSA participants barely contribute enough to the HSA to cover their anticipated out-of-pocket medical costs for the year. The average individual contribution is just $833, far less than any deductible on a HDHP, thereby causing enrollees to suffer under the weight of this type of plan design. Some of this behavior is simply due to limited incomes, but some can be attributed to other factors, such as a lack of education on how an HSA works.

To ensure that your workforce fully embraces HDHPs with HSA plans, it behooves every employer to explore ways to motivate employees to participate in their HSA. Afterall, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, between 20 and 22 million people in the U.S. are currently enrolled in an HDHP with an HSA.

Here are just a few ideas for improving HSA participation:

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Employee Engagement, Plan Design, Behavioral Psychology, HSAs, Consumer Driven Healthcare

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5 Ways to Help Employees Embrace High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs)

David Rook

Many employers are making the move from traditional healthcare plans such as HMOs, POSs, EPOs, or PPOs, to high deductible health plans, commonly referred to as HDHPs. Employers find that HDHPs allow them to save on premium costs while at the same time encouraging workers to become more active and educated consumers of healthcare. Some companies might offer HDHPs as one of two or more medical plan options, although this strategy does them little good in terms of saving money if the majority of employees fail to adopt an HDHP plan.

Regardless of the options employers choose to offer, consumer-driven healthcare is on the rise and high deductible health plans aren’t going away anytime soon. As they continue to become more and more prevalent, it’s important for HR to step up their communication efforts. Employees will be (understandably) concerned and confused by the differences in HDHPs, but it’s nothing education, patience and a bit of behavioral economics knowledge can’t solve to ward off buyer's remorse. Here are some ways to help employees embrace high deductible health plans.

1. Communication is Key

As with any other change in your company, you must be very explicit and intentional in your communication. Remember that people like to have explanations for what is happening (and why), rather than have changes dictated to them without any kind of supporting information. Just remember Benjamin Franklin's oft-cited adage "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."

When introducing a HDHP, it's critical to hold an active (vs. passive) enrollment. It's also smart to hold an open enrollment meeting so your employees can ask you questions - just make sure they’re prepared for it by sending out the benefits information a few days prior to presentation. In this way, they'll have time to review the information and come prepared with any questions they might have. Be as candid as possible so they feel as though you’re understanding their concerns - and do your best to be as patient as you can to assuage their fears. This course of action will go a long way toward a smooth transition.

2. Educate Employees about How High Deductible Health Plans Work

If your employees have never been enrolled in a high deductible health plan before, they’ll have plenty of questions about how they work. Why aren’t there copays? How much does an office visit cost at the doctor? What if one of the members on the plan is seriously injured? For what type of person are HDHPs most appropriate? Although HDHPs are growing in popularity among employers, employees tend to know very little about them and therefore, shy away from them.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Employee Engagement, Education, HSAs

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4 Ways to Spice Up Employee Benefits Open Enrollment Meetings

David Rook

Autumn is here, the leaves are changing, and before you know it, a new year will start. For many employers, that means annual benefits open enrollment meetings. But it seems like every year, it’s more difficult to get employees to attend the meetings, pay attention, and learn how they can make the most of their benefits.

All the while, the push to consumer-driven healthcare is making things more complicated. From HSAs and HDHPs to HRAs and Limited Purpose FSAs, how are employees supposed to take full advantage of the great benefits you offer if they don't take the time to learn about these new products and services? Perhaps it’s time to try something new to spice up your annual open enrollment.

Here are some benefits open enrollment ideas you might want to try:

1. Go Digital.

For better or worse, mobile devices are in our hands throughout the day. Take advantage of this and reach out to your employees through one or several streams.

  • Send a text message telling employees that open enrollment is coming and reminding them to read their product literature and talk to their spouses so they’ll be ready to enroll.
  • Ask them questions via email beforehand, as well as during the meeting. Try a Poll Everywhere, Kahoot, or Google Forms format to engage employees and encourage participation. These tools allow employees to answer questions anonymously while you tally responses. This is a great way to find out, in real time, which topics merit more attention, especially if employees demonstrate a lack of understanding about a particular benefit.
  • Use social media to engage staff. Tweet employee meeting information with a call to action in 140 characters or less. Share videos or articles explaining complex topics such as HSAs and HDHPs on Facebook or LinkedIn. Use Facebook Live to present and discuss information, then interact with remote employees who are watching online.
  • Use your company blog to explain different aspects of your benefits portfolio and how many of them are designed to work together. Be sure to allow questions and comments on the blog and make sure to be attentive and responsive to employee concerns. Have different people on your leadership team write blog posts from different points of view. A CFO will have different information to share than an HR Director or even a CEO.
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Topics: Employee Engagement, open enrollment

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5 Employment Myths About Millennials Every Employer Should Know

David Rook

Already, the millennial generation is beginning to shape the workplace. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials form 25% of the today’s workforce, and by 2030, they will occupy 75%.

Millennials' attitudes towards work, their vast knowledge in technologies, and their strong career aspirations will determine the culture of the 21st century workplace. Therefore, this generation is not only different but also a very crucial engine that will steer the world economy in the coming decades.

A lot is said about these “digital natives,” but much of it is conjecture. Mostly, what is said about millennials is said through the biased lenses of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Employers need to shed this narrow thinking and separate the facts from myths about this demographic.

Here are the five most common employment myths about millennials you need to get right.

Myth 1: Millennials want constant acclamation.

Millennials are said to crave positive reinforcement and tend to think that everyone in the team “deserves a trophy.” However, a study by IBM showed that this is just a misconception. The study found that millennials value feedback and a fair manager who recognizes their accomplishments.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, millennials, segmentation

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4 Important Things Employers Should Know About Generation Z

David Rook

Hot on the heels of Millennials, the new wave of talent is known as "Generation Z". Born in a globally accessible society, from 1993 onward, this generation has never seen the world without the internet. Among the 2 billion worldwide, 60 million nationally have grown up technologically savvy.  Though the majority of them are now either in high school or attending universities, there are some that are beginning to enter the workforce.

Just like previous generations, Generation Z will also have distinguished characteristics for which employers will need to prepare. So what exactly should employers expect from the next generation of the workforce? Here are the most overarching features of Gen Z that HR professionals should know about:

1. They prefer digital communication and a steady stream of information.

Gen Z are visual learners and have grown up with an iPad or a smartphone in their hands. Digital communication has been their way of life, and workplaces where communication is hushed may be unfavorable to them. They are socially responsible and connected with their peers around the world via social media; their communication is often done on social networks or through text messages, not email. Organizations need to shift from the traditional ways of communication, such as memos and emails, to accommodate the Gen Z workforce.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, segmentation, generation z, employee culture

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What Cheating on Workplace Wellness Contests Says About the Cheater

David Rook

Wellness programs have been around for decades, and their benefits are well-documented. Research shows they are responsible for a 28 percent reduction in sick days, a 26 percent reduction in health costs, and a 30 percent decrease in workers' compensation and disability management claims. If designed well (e.g. based on population health analytics, etc.), companies can potentially save $5.93 for every dollar invested.

Wellness initiatives and contests have been taken to a new level in recent years, with the emergence of wearable fitness trackers. On the surface, it seems that these trackers would eliminate any tendency to exaggerate activity performance, compared to using manual logs. However, where there's a will, there's a way. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently reported on wellness cheaters. What does cheating on workplace wellness contests say about the cheater?

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Topics: Company Culture, Employee Engagement, wellness

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Employee Engagement Thru Team Performance

David Rook

We get many questions about how to increase employee engagement. While we believe that giving your workforce best-in-class HR benefits is one of the best ways to satisfy many workers, another way is to find ways to motivate workers who succeed better on a team.

As a manager, spend time looking for ways to help the team function as a whole. Use part of your time for planning positive activities, such as team-building and brainstorming sessions. You should also work to identify what makes groups of people function well together. In this post, we will examine three common issues with team performance that can reduce employee engagement: problems with communication, problems with goal setting, and personality conflicts.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Team Performance

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Video Reduces Costs and Boosts Employee Engagement

David Rook

Video is a powerful medium. Moving pictures and sound capture our attention better than any other communication vehicle. When deployed in an office enviorment, video is a terrific choice for keeping employees engaged in otherwise dry topics, such as codes of conduct training or employee benefits.

Well executed, video can set the right mood and tone for any message - and it can make a business come across as far more professional and polished.

Many companies are already using video, most especially during their on-boarding process - new hire employees typically see their first corporate video within a few days of being hired. Companies at the forefront of this trend know that video effectively and consistently conveys messages, reduces costs, and sets the right tone for their brand.

Here are several other reasons to make the use of video more prevelant in your organizaiton.

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Topics: Employee Engagement

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Key Takeaways From MetLife's Employee Benefit Trends Study

David Rook

Key Takeaways From MetLife's Employee Benefit Trends Study

The recently published MetLife Benefit Trends Study contains some very interesting and perhaps surprising statistics regarding the annual benefits enrollment process.

We encourage you to check it out for yourself (it’s a very quick read). Here are a few of our key take-aways:

  • Smaller companies (under 500 employees) have a lower percentage of employees engaged in the annual benefits enrollment process than larger ones.
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Topics: Cost Containment, Company Culture, Employee Engagement, Enrollment

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Manage Staffing Costs Thru Employee Engagement

David Rook

Manage Staffing Costs Thru Employee Engagement

Despite a strong economic recovery, the Affordable Care Act is pressuring employers to find an optimal balance between total employee compensation and annual company profits. 

One of the best ways for companies to manage staffing costs is by reducing turn-over and focusing on strategies to retain existing, skilled employees. Here’s why this is so important and what companies can do about it.

The Cost of Hiring

It’s easy to forget than the true cost of hiring a new employee is far more than just salary and employee benefits, which usually total in the 1.25 to 1.4 times base salary range (meaning that a salary plus benefits package for a $50,000/year employee could equal $62,500 to $70,000).

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Topics: Cost Containment, Company Culture, Employee Engagement

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