Communications About HSAs Need Improvement

July 8, 2014 ( – Consumers, including those who currently have health savings accounts (HSAs), do not fully understand them, a survey indicates.

Only 30% of current HSA account holders passed a basic HSA proficiency quiz, and, at a 50% pass rate on the flexible spending account (FSA) proficiency quiz, FSA account holders scored little better. The Alegeus Technologies 2014 Consumer and Employer Healthcare Benefits Survey found that, particularly for HSAs, a lack of understanding of the full account value proposition may be hindering adoption—as more than 40% still view HSAs as spending accounts, exhibiting a lack of understanding of the ability to save beyond the plan year or to invest HSA funds.

Survey findings revealed most employers offer limited benefit support. Sixty-five percent communicate about health benefit enrollment only during the open enrollment period. Nearly 60% rely only on plan summary documents and enrollment forms to communicate benefit plan/account options, and only one-third offer interactive tools such as plan comparison calculators. In terms of quality of communication and support, employers seem to think they are doing a better job than consumers perceive they are doing. In their assessment of the quality of various aspects of employer benefit communications (clarity, depth, format, personalization and frequency), consumer ratings were consistently 20% lower than employer ratings.

Consumers value a variety of options and freedom to choose the plans, accounts and features that are right for their unique situation. Nearly 70% of consumers indicated they would ideally like a wider array of plan options than is currently offered by their employer. That desire for choice extends beyond plan/account selection to include account features, such as the ability to choose their own HSA custodian. Forty-seven percent want to be able to choose their HSA bank versus having their employer choose for them, and 41% want their HSA managed by the same bank that manages their personal accounts.

Not surprisingly, the research findings confirm that consumers value account features that simplify the health care funding experience. Debit cards and multichannel (Web/mobile) account access were ranked highly by survey participants—with more than 65% rating those features as extremely valuable. Sixty percent of consumers highly value self-service features such as the ability to submit claims via mobile devices. Seventy-five percent value integration of benefit accounts and insurance claim data to streamline the process of reviewing and paying medical bills.

Commissioned by Alegeus, a third-party research firm polled more than 1,000 consumers and 500 employer health benefit decisionmakers for the survey. An infographic summarizing key research findings is at Alegeus will also share the full results of the research on an upcoming webinar on July 31.