Education Can Help Employees Engage in Managing Health Care Costs

HSA Bank recommends employers offer a guide about health plans, their costs and what they cover; a health plan comparison tool; and a tax-advantaged savings account to help employees become better health care consumers.

Two-thirds (66.7%) of consumers are moderately or highly engaged in their physical wellness and health costs, according to HSA Bank’s Health & Wealth Index for 2019.

The greatest difference in health and wealth engagement occurs for health plan type. High-deductible health plan (HDHP) consumers remain the most engaged group overall. Baby Boomers show the greatest level of engagement in their health and wealth. The tendency of women to consider cost more frequently when purchasing health services and receive more preventative health services leads to a slightly higher engagement score for women than men.

HSA Bank’s survey revealed that nearly one in five consumers are not able to identify their health plan type. The firm notes that plan type influences how consumers access care and pay for health care services because the health insurance plan determines the in-network providers, treatment and prescription coverage, as well as premium, copay, coinsurance, deductible and out-of-pocket costs. Knowing the costs involved in one’s health care is key to being an engaged consumer. Thirty percent of consumers don’t know their premium, deductible or out-of-pocket cost amounts.

HSA Bank encourages plan sponsors to simplify health plan terminology by creating a guide for employees to understand the health insurance plans offered. For each plan, indicate: the type of plan, a definition of that plan, and the key cost-sharing amounts for those plans with definitions and examples of when those costs would be applicable. Make the guide available to employees all year, not just during open enrollment.

In addition, the firm says a health plan comparison tool can accompany the guide and help employees evaluate their plan options. Employees can “do the math” for various health care scenarios: no health care expenses, about the same expenses as last year, and expenses equal to the deductible or out-of-pocket maximum, to determine what their total estimated annual cost would be with each of the plans offered.

For the second year, 86% of consumers believe they made lifestyle changes to improve their health in the past year, and more than 90% receive at least one preventative health exam each year. Women and college graduates are more likely to receive preventative health services. In addition, those enrolled in health savings account (HSA)-eligible HDHPs are likely to receive preventative exams.

HSA Bank notes that many preventative health exams are covered under the Affordable Care Act regardless of the type of health insurance plan. Employees may not be aware of this, so it’s important to educate them about what is covered and encourage them to receive preventative health services by offering incentives like adding funds to their HSAs.

Saving and considering cost are two fundamental aspects of financial responsibility for health care. But, these two practices can be a bit more challenging since many consumers do not have an account specifically designed to help them save for health care, and researching and comparing costs for health care services is still largely up to the individual. The research finds 40% of consumers are not currently saving for health care expenses and 30% are not considering cost.

HSA Bank says employers can improve employee financial engagement in health care by offering a convenient and tax-advantaged account, such as an HSA, to save specifically for health care expenses today and in retirement. The firm suggests employers encourage employees to make regular contributions by implementing a match program similar to a 401(k) plan.

For the index, a survey of more than 2,000 randomly selected U.S. adults (ages 18 and older) was conducted in the fall of 2018. The full report may be downloaded from here.