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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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How Employee Benefits Work When An Employee Qualifies For Medicare

Jeff Griffin

Around 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every single day, which means 10,000 more people become eligible for Medicare. If your human resources department hasn’t yet been inundated with questions from your older employees about Medicare eligibility, they will at some point — and soon.

After all, many boomers are choosing to work a bit longer than the standard retirement age of 65 for a variety of reasons — some are still physically able to work, so they’re taking advantage of it, others are trying to save more for retirement (because so many people haven’t saved nearly enough, if anything), and others just aren’t ready to give up their day jobs yet.

It’s possible that some of your employees have deferred Medicare eligibility because they haven’t actually retired yet, but some people who are still employed find it’s cheaper to take the leap into Medicare (and all its parts) than to stay on their employer-sponsored health plan (though many choose to enroll in both). That said, it’s not quite that cut and dry when it comes to those enrolled in health savings accounts (HSAs) through high deductible health plans (HDHPs).

Here are the things that need to be considered when an employee or covered spouse turns 65:

Medicare Part A

With the exception of those employees actively contributing to an HSA, there’s really no reason for them not to enroll in Part A, which covers hospitalization, home health care, care at nursing homes, and hospice care. As long as employees have worked and paid Medicare taxes during a minimum 10-year period of time (the period of time deemed long enough by the government), Medicare Part A comes premium-free (however, it does come with coinsurance). The situation gets a bit more complicated when employees who are ready to enroll in Medicare are also contributing to an HSA.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, HSAs, HSA regulations, Retirement Planning, Medicare

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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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HRA vs. HSA: Which is Better?

Jeff Griffin

Let’s face it, healthcare has become a major expense for everyone in this country. To help offset a portion of this costly burden for employees, employers typically offer two very popular tax-advantaged savings accounts: HRAs and HSAs. But what’s the difference between these two healthcare savings plans, what are the legal distinctions, and which is better for your employees and your company?

Making an informed decision about these tax-advantaged reimbursement plans can help you maximize the benefits for both your employees and your company.

(For a side-by-side comparison of these plans, including comparisons to FSAs and QSEHRA tax-advantaged accounts, click here to download our four page guide.)

Defining HRAs and HSAs

Not to be confused with a flexible spending account (FSA), an HSA, or health savings account, is a savings account specifically linked to a qualified high deductible health plan (HDHP); it’s meant to help offset the higher out-of-pocket expenses that potentially come with plans of this design.

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Topics: Cost Containment, HSAs, HRAs, CFO, Consumer Driven Healthcare, High Deductible Health Plans

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4 Common Mistakes to Avoid with HSA Regulations

Jeff Griffin

Health savings accounts (HSAs) have grown in popularity in recent years for a variety of reasons. Many employers are looking to cut employee benefit costs due to the rapid and seemingly never ending increasing cost of healthcare, while others are looking to avoid the ACA’s hefty Cadillac Tax (an ACA-related 40% tax, set to go into effect in 2020 which impacts “rich” health coverage that exceeds predetermined threshold amounts).

High deductible health plans (HDHPs) allow both employers and employees to save on premiums and are a simple way to accomplish both goals. They also fit with a growing trend towards consumer-driven healthcare. Most importantly, as HDHPs become more prevalent, so do HSAs as they go hand-in-hand.

Enrollment in HSAs has exploded in the past decade, growing from 3.2 million people in 2006 to 20.2 million in 2016 and once the data is in for 2017, this number is expected to be even higher. Even with all their pros and cons, it appears that HDHPs with HSAs are here to stay as more and more companies make the transition to less expensive health insurance options.

HSAs may be a good deal for businesses and workers alike, but it’s important for employers to be informed of HSA regulations so they can ensure the HSA they offer is compliant with federal law. Here are four common mistakes employers make when offering an HSA.

4 Common HSA Mistakes to Avoid

Mistake #1: Setting Up An HSA with a Non-Qualified High Deductible Health Plan

Employers are only allowed to offer an HSA when it’s set up in conjunction with a qualified high deductible health plan. Note that this doesn’t simply mean a health insurance plan with a high deductible — many comprehensive plans are now being built to have higher deductibles so they can boast lower premiums, which is another common money saving strategy among employers these days. Rather, the term “High Deductible Health Plan” is specific to health insurance plans that not only have high deductibles, but also conform to other established federal guidelines.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, HSAs, HSA regulations

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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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How To Engage Employees in Consumer Driven Healthcare

David Rook

For any employer hoping to contain employee benefit costs, workforce adoption of high deductible health plans (HDHPs) is almost always a critical component these days. Yet this flight to what’s become known as “consumer driven healthcare” comes with a duty to help the workforce become savvy shoppers of healthcare. As the traditional decision makers in this area, employers must keep in mind that many employees will feel overwhelmed with this new responsibility.  If fact, many experts already feel as if we are failing as a nation when it comes to this concept of healthcare consumerism.

Never before have employees had to care much about whether a prescription was brand name or generic; they just had a copay. Maybe that copay was more expensive for the brand name drug, but it was manageable in comparison with paying the full retail price. They also never had to pay more than a copay for a doctor visit, but now they’re on the hook for the whole bill (at least until they reach their deductible). It’s understandable that many people feel confused and frustrated by this change in benefits.

This is not, however, an impossible transition. With more and more companies shifting to HDHPs every year, the education challenge is widespread. Engaging employees in the decision making process will empower them to feel as if they can make good decisions on their own — instead of expecting their employer to do it for them. With some education and a little assistance from your employee benefits broker and internal communications team, employees can gain the confidence they need to control their healthcare spending. Here are a few things employers can do to engage their employees in consumer driven healthcare.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Cost Containment, HSAs

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Types of Health Insurance Plans & How They Compare

David Rook

Navigating the alphabet soup of types of health insurance can make anyone’s eyes glaze over, but it doesn’t have to be so intimidating — or boring. HMOs, PPOs, EPOs, POSs, and HDHPs share similarities, but they all provide health benefits in slightly different ways — and some of those can be deal-breakers for employees. Here’s a go-to guide for differentiating the types of health insurance plans available on the market today.

HMOs (Health Maintenance Organization)

Created by the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, HMOs are designed to be a less expensive type of health insurance plan than some of the alternatives — in fact, they are usually among the least expensive options, but with that perk generally comes narrow networks and less freedom of choice when it comes to doctors and hospital systems.

With HMOs, you must see a primary care physician (PCP) prior to seeing any kind of specialist, otherwise the visit and any treatment provided may not be covered. In addition, the insurance policy does not cover any portion of a bill accumulated from an out-of-network provider. However, if an enrollee is transported to an out-of-network hospital in the case of an emergency (such as in an ambulance or life flight), services must be covered at the in-network price. The exception to this rule may be doctors within that hospital because they can bill separately (such as an anesthesiologist).

This type of health insurance generally boasts the least amount of paperwork, which is appealing for many people in an age where insurance paperwork seems to be as endless as it is pointless. Policyholders are subject to monthly premiums, in addition to their deductible, copays at the doctor’s office and pharmacy, and coinsurance.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, employee health, HSAs

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The Pros and Cons of Telemedicine

Jeff Griffin

Cultivating a truly competitive employee benefits package can sometimes seem like an insurmoutable task. Most employers work in earnest to put in place the very best benefits they can afford, without compromising coverage. This is especially true when it comes to the medical portion of their program. Telemedicine, rapidly growing in popularity, is an excellent way to supplement a medical plan without driving up costs - but it does have some drawbacks as well. So what exactly is telemedicine, and is it a good fit for your company? 

What is Telemedicine?

Originally intended to reach people in remote locations, telemedicine has grown in popularity over the past decade. Telemedicine allows patients to speak to a doctor on the phone (and preferably, with video, as doctors can visually observe the patient). The doctor can diagnose minor health issues and even write prescriptions. If the doctor fears the issue at hand requires immediate medical attention, he or she can recommend the person go the nearest emergency room or urgent care.

Telemedicine is perfect for people who have a hard time getting an appointment with their primary care physician (PCP), people with newborns (who are likely to have a million questions), or those who are disabled and struggle to get to their PCP’s office. Simple medical devices in the home can even be used to help provide vitals and diagnostic information to the doctors so a more accurate diagnosis is possible.

Telemedicine is typically far cheaper than an office visit — for both the patient and the insurance company. In fact, there’s no copay for telemedicine, making it an attractive option for those with copays on the higher end of the spectrum (especially for specialists) or for those who might be tight on cash.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Telemedicine, HSAs

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Employee Benefits Issues Facing Arizona Employers

David Rook

While employers across the country are battling the rising cost of health care, Arizona employers are facing unique challenges of their own. Arizona’s border with Mexico presents unique circumstances many states don’t encounter, and certain state laws have created a challenging environment for employers to cultivate meaningful employee benefits packages. Here are four issues Arizona employers are facing in 2017 when it comes to employee benefits:

Arizona Employee Benefits Issue #1: Lack of Exchange Options

For small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time equivalents (FTEs), offering a SBHRA (Small Business Healthcare Reimbursement Arrangement) can be a challenge. Taking advantage of newly passed legislation regarding SBHRAs should generally help small businesses with recruitment and retention — however, the lack of Exchange options in Arizona is likely to frustrate employees, rather than appeal to them.  

This lack of Exchange options means competition is virtually non-existent, which generally leads to higher healthcare prices. Of course, this means employees are having difficulty finding affordable healthcare that fits within their budget, leading some employers to feel obligated to increase the amount they offer via SBHRAs.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Cost Containment, HSAs, Arizona

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