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Uncategorized

How to Coax Your Employees to Enroll in an HDHP

Employers looking for ways to decrease their group health insurance outlays over the past decade have been turning to high-deductible health plans as they offer lower up-front premiums.

In 2021, 51% of the U.S. workforce was enrolled in one of these plans, according to a recent survey by ValuePenguine.com.

But successfully coaxing your employees to choose an HDHP is not always easy. It means getting the deductible amounts right and educating them on how to best use these plans.

Also, while the plans are not for everyone, they can be a good fit for those who do not use their health plans much, are young and in good health. These employees may instead be overpaying for their premiums if they are not in an HDHP with an attached health savings account (HSA).

The key to encouraging your staff to adopt these plans is to first understand why some are reticent about them, how you can overcome their objections and how you can better tailor the plans for them. The following are the main reasons HDHP adoption may be lagging among covered workers.

Lack of education

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is that many people are shocked to see the amount of the deductible, even as they save money on their premium. And on top of that sky-high deductible, they still have copays.

If you want employees that would be better suited for an HDHP to actually sign up for a plan, you need to take the extra time to:

  • Explain how HDHPs work and that there is a trade-off for high deductibles in exchange for lower up-front premiums.
  • Provide custom, side-by-side medical plan comparison tables and different medical usage scenarios to illustrate which types of individuals are best suited for an HDHP and which ones are not. (This would include scenarios of individuals who may be high health care users who may not be well suited for an HDHP.)
  • Explain how they can funnel what they save in premiums into an HSA so they can save their money for future medical expenses (more on HSAs later).

After covering all of the above, you should encourage your staff to pencil out the math to figure out which plan is right for themselves and their families. They can do this with the usage scenarios you provide. They may need assistance in doing this and you can encourage them to ask questions so they can make the best decision.

Too-high deductibles

While employees expect an HDHP to have a higher-deductible than a traditional plan, they can be shocked by a multi-thousand-dollar deductible. And many employers offer plans that are at the maximum end of the deductible spectrum.

For 2022, the maximum out-of-pocket deductible for an HSA-linked single HDHP is $7,050 and for a family plan the total deductible is $14,100. The minimum deductible for these plans is $1,400 for a single plan and $2,800 for a family plan.

You can work with us to model out multiple plan design scenarios that will help you save money on your group benefits bill while maximizing plan adoption. These models do a good job of explaining possible annual outlays and savings at different premium and deductible levels. 

You’re not contributing to their HSAs

Employers will often fund HSAs with a matching contribution up to a certain dollar amount, but that’s not required under law. As a result, many employers do not contribute to these accounts. But HSAs are critical to the success of HDHPs.

It’s often hard to impart the importance of an HSA and how it can benefit a worker years in the future. To generate interest, it’s a good idea for the employer to offer to contribute to the account if the employee sets up an account. Once an employer starts contributing, the likelihood of the employee starting to do so increases exponentially. 

When selling them on the benefits, explain that an HSA never expires. Your employees can keep them for life and let the funds grow in value through investments, and then put them to use when they are older or if they have health problems years later.

Additionally, they are funded with pre-tax earnings, and withdrawals are not taxed either.

Tell them this is essentially free money and that at some point this year or far in the future, they may need the money in the account to pay for medical services.

The takeaway

Helping your workforce understand how HDHPs (coupled with an HSA) can benefit them is the best way to encourage them to enroll.

You may not convince everyone that an HDHP is right for them, but if you get through to some of the ones who can benefit from an HDHP, they may share their experience with colleagues later.

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Uncategorized

2022 HSA Contribution Limits, HDHP Minimums, Maximums Set

The IRS has set the maximum amounts employees can funnel into their health savings accounts and health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) for the 2022 policy year.

The IRS updates these amounts every year to adjust for inflation in addition to minimum deductibles for high-deductible health plans, as well as the out-of-pocket maximums your employees are subject to. HSAs, which help employees save for medical expenses, are only available to employees enrolled in HDHPs. 

Here are the new figures for 2022:

HSA annual contribution limit

  • Individual plan: $3,650, up from $3,600 in 2021
  • Family plan: $7,300, up from $7,200 in 2021

HDHP minimum annual deductible

  • Individual plan: $1,400, the same as in 2021
  • Family plan: $2,800, the same as in 2021

HDHP annual out-of-pocket maximum

  • Individual plan: $7,050, up from $7,000 in 2021
  • Family plan: $14,100, up from $14,000 in 2021

Excepted benefit HRA

  • Maximum annual employer contribution: $1,800, the same as in 2021

Federal law requires health plan enrollees to use HSAs with HDHPs.

HSAs explained

An HSA is a special bank account for your employees’ eligible health care costs. They can put money into their HSA through pre-tax payroll deduction, deposits or transfers. As the amount grows over time, they can continue to save it or spend it on eligible expenses. 

Employers can also contribute to the accounts, but the annual contribution maximum applies to all contributions in total (from the employee and the employer). 

The money in the HSA belongs to the employee and is theirs to keep, even if they switch jobs. The funds roll over from year to year and can earn interest. Some plans also have investment options for the funds.

There are a number of benefits for employees who have HSAs:

  • The money an employee contributes to an HSA is not subject to income taxes.
  • If employees contribute through payroll deduction, the amount is taken from their pay before taxes are taken out, which reduces their overall taxable income.
  • They are not taxed on withdrawals, and HSAs even help reduce taxable income.
  • If employees contribute to their HSA with after-tax money, they can deduct their contributions during tax time on Form 1040.
  • Employees can tap the funds for any approved out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Here’s how they work:

  • Employees can make withdrawals with a debit card or check specific to the HSA.
  • Employees can use the money in their HSA to pay for care until they reach their deductible, out-of-pocket expenses like copays and coinsurance.
  • They can use the funds to pay for other eligible expenses not covered by their HDHP, like dental or vision care (eye exams and corrective lenses).
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Uncategorized

Put Money into an HSA instead of a 401(k) After Employer Matching: Report

One of the main recommendations for employees with 401(k) plans is that they should contribute at least enough to their plan every paycheck to ensure they receive the maximum they can in their employer’s matching contributions.

But a new study by Willis Towers Watson recommends that younger, healthier workers should divert savings to their health savings account from their 401(k) after capping out employer matching instead of continuing to put money into their retirement plan.

The report reasons that if they do this, they can get more bang for their buck when they use their HSAs to pay for future medical expenses.

That’s because HSAs can be kept for life and the money they’ve accumulated in them can be used to pay for medical expenses whenever they need them, including in retirement. And the moneys used in HSAs to pay for those expenses are not taxed when they are withdrawn, unlike 401(k)s, the funds of which are subject to federal income tax when withdrawn

The benefits of HSAs

With HSAs:

  • Pretax contributions, gains from investment, and withdrawals used for qualified medical expenses are exempt from federal and most state taxes.
  • Any unused balance is carried over to the next year.
  • Funds never expire.
  • Unused funds can be passed on to a beneficiary after death.
  • After turning 65, account holders can withdraw money for any purpose. However, if those funds are not use for a bona fide medical expense, they are taxed as income.

No other retirement savings vehicle has the same tax advantages as an HSA, so a dollar saved in an HSA can be worth significantly more than an unmatched dollar saved in a 401(k), according to Willis Towers Watson. Some employers will match a portion of workers’ HSA contributions or seed their accounts with money to encourage participation. 

That said, HSAs won’t outperform funds that are matched partly or fully by an employer, according to the report.

Willis Towers Watson said that those tax-free dollars and withdrawals can help pay for health care when we are likely to use it most: in retirement.

Men who retire at 65 with an average life expectancy of 85 would spend about $140,000 out of pocket for medical costs, and woman who retires at the same age and lives to 87 would spend an average of $159,000, according to the research.

The HSA pitch

HSAs can only be used in conjunction with a high-deductible health plan. When HSAs were first introduced, they did not have investment options for the money in the accounts, but as they have grown in popularity over the years, many HSAs now have evolved to essentially have the same investment choices as a 401(k).

HSAs have rules about how much of the balance can be invested. They will typically require that the first $1,000 in the account to be held in cash, and anything above that can be invested to help the funds grow over time.

In 2021, workers can contribute a maximum of $3,600 to their individual HSA account and $7,200 to a family coverage account.

If you are offering your workers high-deductible health plans with matching HSAs, and if you also provide a 401(k) and match part of the contributions, you may want to consider sharing this information with them to help them make informed choices on where to park their money for future use.

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Uncategorized

HDHPs Do Not Slow Down Health Care Spending: Study

A new study has found that high-deductible health plans have only a limited effect on the growth of health care spending for people who sign on for these plans.

The National Bureau of Economic Research researched HDHPs over a period of four years and found they failed to control health spending any more than traditional preferred provider organization plans (PPOs) and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). The only statistically significant impact on lower growth by HDHPs was on more expensive pharmaceuticals.

The news comes as HDHPs continue growing in use and popularity among employers and some of their workers. They are often paired with a health savings account that allows participants to set aside a portion of their wages before taxes in special accounts used to pay for health-related expenses, including deductibles.

When HDHPs first came on the scene they were touted as a potential cost-saver. The logic went that when the worker has more skin in the game and has to pay more for their medical care and medications, they will shop around for the lowest-cost service or drug.

Here are the main findings of the report:

  • Covered workers who switched from low-deductible plans to high-deductible plans saw lower growth rates of spending, but for no more than a year.
  • HDHPs seem to discourage the use of less cost-effective drugs. The report surmised that’s because people with these plans will be more motivated to shop around for better prices, like from an online pharmacy.

Considerations

PPOs continue to be the most popular choice among employees and HDHPs continue growing as employers look to cut their and their employees’ premium expenditures, according to a recent report by Benefitfocus, a benefits technology company. HDHPs currently account for about 30% of group health plans in play.

Also, some employees prefer having an HDHP as they can save money up front on the premium.

Over the past few years, employers have noticed that younger and healthier workers will gravitate towards HDHPs when offered them, as they will usually not need much health care and they are willing to trade a lower up-front premium for the small likelihood that they will need a significant amount of medical care, which they would have to pay for out of pocket.

However, workers in their 40s and older are more apt to stick to their PPO or HMO plans, which have higher premiums but lower out-of-pocket maximums.

But the authors of the National Bureau of Economic Research report said that for some people with health problems, HDHPs “may have high adverse health consequences when patients delay, reduce, or forgo care to curb costs, even when costs are moderate compared to health benefits.”

The takeaway

There is no doubt that HDHPs will continue growing in use, but they are not for everyone. Employers that give their workers an option of choosing an HDHP or a traditional PPO plan will be able to better cater to the different needs of their workers.

This is important as the U.S. workforce becomes more diversified, and for employers with multi-generational employee pools.

"coronavirus
Uncategorized

IRS Allows HDHPs to Pay for COVID-19 Testing, Treatment Pre-Deductible

The IRS has issued new emergency guidance that allows insurers to waive the cost of coronavirus testing and treatment for individuals who are enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs).

Major health insurers report they’ve been concerned that if they can make the change to their high-deductible plans without breaching IRS regulations regarding such plans. 

Specifically, the new guidance states that HDHPs will not lose their plan status if they provide medical care services and items related to coronavirus testing or treatment even before an enrollee has met their deductible.

While the regulation does not require HDHPs to cover the testing and treatment without any out-of-pocket expenses by the enrollee, the plans can do so ― and without breaching the rules regarding these plans.

The new rule could also pave the way for non-HDHPs like PPOs and HMOs to also provide coronavirus testing without out-of-pocket costs for their participants. While there is no rule preventing them from doing so now, many of the country’s large PPOs and HMOs have been reluctant to start offering free testing until they know how HSA plans would be affected.

Typically, enrollees in HDHPs with an attached HSA are required to pay all of their medicinal costs up to their deductible before the insurer will pay. The Trump administration earlier issued another rule that allows HDHPs to foot the bill for certain preventative health services, such as vaccines and screenings for specific conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure before the deductible is met.

In notice 2020-15, the IRS says that “Due to the unprecedented public health emergency posed by COVID-19, and the need to eliminate potential administrative and financial barriers to testing for and treatment of COVID-19, a health plan that otherwise satisfies the requirements to be an HDHP under section 223(c)(2)(A) will not fail to be an HDHP merely because the health plan provides medical care services and items purchased related to testing for and treatment of COVID-19 prior to the satisfaction of the applicable minimum deductible.”

The notice only applies to coronavirus and does not void any other requirements governing HDHPs and HSAs. It states that “Individuals participating in HDHPs or any other type of health plan should consult their particular health plan regarding the health benefits for testing and treatment of COVID-19 provided by the plan, including the potential application of any deductible or cost-sharing.”

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Healthcare

IRS Eases Access to Chronic Disease Treatment

New guidance from the IRS will help people enrolled in high-deductible health plans get coverage for pharmaceuticals to treat a number of chronic conditions.

Under the guidance, medicinal coverage for patients with HDHPs that have certain chronic conditions – like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and more – will be classified as preventative health services, which must be covered free with no cost-sharing under the Affordable Care Act.