In the Age of HDHPs, Employees Need Education

Employees are assuming more responsibility for health care savings and spending decisions, yet they are unprepared and, in some cases, unwilling to take accountability, says a survey from Alegeus.

Despite year-over-year increases between 2014 and 2016 in the number of U.S. workers enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a savings component, 63% of employees don’t know the benefits of a health savings account (HSA), and nearly one in three feel no better today about managing their health care finances than when they first became responsible to seek out their own health care, a survey from consumer-directed health care solutions provider Alegeus finds.

More than 50% of employees fear being hit with a big and unexpected health care expense they cannot afford. Sixty-eight percent of employees enrolled in a health care savings account (HSA/flexible spending account [FSA]/health reimbursement account [HRA]) consider themselves to be savers; yet, only 23% save beyond the current year and the majority underfund their health care savings each year.

Thirty-nine percent of employees enrolled in health care savings accounts rated their understanding of the offerings as competent, yet only three in 10 HSA account holders can pass a basic proficiency test. Twenty-six percent are unaware they can use HSA funds beyond the immediate plan year, and 41% are unaware they can invest HSA funds.

Seven out of 10 employees say they want to take a more active role in their health care overall, but only half intend to do more diligence this year when making their health care purchase decisions. Forty-three percent of employees have never visited their health account portal, called the toll-free number, subscribed to receive communications or downloaded the mobile app. Furthermore, only 36% of savings account participants have visited their provider’s online site, and just one in 10 participants have downloaded the mobile app.

Fifty percent of employees think health care providers can improve their experience through human interaction that answers their questions, makes recommendations or validates their thinking, but they expressed significant distrust of the health system, doctors, employers, benefit providers and employer human resource (HR) representatives when determining how much to save for health care costs and which plan to select during open enrollment.

Alegeus says the survey signals the need for significant education, tools and support that engages and empowers consumers to take ownership and make savvier health care decisions.

Download the full research report.