Plan sponsors can focus on certain essential health savings account features and capabilities when working with providers to build a program for employees.
A useful way to frame HSAs for employees is that they are both an investment product and a financial wellness tool, Michelle Costo, product director for group benefits, health savings and spending accounts at MetLife, told attendees of the 2022 HSA Conference.
“My biggest recommendations are finding a provider and a partner that you can trust to be proactive, responsive, consultative and flexible to your unique needs as a company, because every company is different about what are the goals and what the strategy is with the benefit plan,” Costo said.
Employers can make HSAs most useful for account holders by selecting a provider that can offer a strong, robust platform, according to the panel of industry experts.
For example, the provider should offer HSA account holders a single point of contact for employee benefits, including the HSA.
Jon Fortune, director of Transamerica Workplace Products and Solutions at Transamerica Retirement Solutions, explained that single sign-on is important because it helps to simplify the process for the employer and employee alike. He said that often different employee benefits don’t interact—retirement plan participants have logins for the company’s recordkeeper while account holders have another for a flexible savings account and another for an HSA.
“How do you keep all that straight as an [HSA] participant and a saver and a spender as well as a back-office administrator, HR professional, that’s got so many things on their plate? How do you make that an easier path to help employees to focus on education, to focus on communication?” he asked.
Another feature employers can prioritize is smart cards, which use smart technology to efficiently direct participants’ funds from the appropriate account to the appropriate kind of expense. This helps workers be sure they are using the correct buckets of money and can reduce confusion. He noted that an education gap persists for HSAs, and that account holders still mistake them for FSAs.
“The smart debit cards know which money should come out [of which account] first. That’s another key feature,” Fortune explained.
Greg Puig, vice president for benefit consulting services at Sentinel Benefits and Financial Group, added that the broker and consultant perspective on choosing a provider “often doesn’t come down to who is the cheapest provider,” he said.
He explained that an employer should examine the provider’s user interface, tech stack, and potential appeal across age groups.
He also said that employers should ask, “How easy is it to spend, does it have a smart card, does it have the ability to really appeal to those spenders and savers?”
Puig added that when an employer examines the HSA provider, another critical question is whether there is “any type of active arrangement between a health care carrier and your HSA provider—and in a lot of cases there are, and that could really help people,” he said.
That aspect is important because there is no statute of limitations on spending money from an HSA. Therefore, an account holder could incur a claim today and submit a request for reimbursement 10 years later, Puig noted.
“That’s a critical component of it,” he said. “Working with an HSA administrator that has good active feeds or a good database that allows for people to actively store their claims information in a healthy manner is critically important, because then they’re going to be able to have an ongoing file of their own claims that they can submit for reimbursement should they ever want to down the line. It’s something we’re constantly looking at, especially for those who maybe are using it more as a spending vehicle.”
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