A new study by Harris Interactive and reported in Reuters Monday lamented the fact that too many people make benefits decisions that just don’t benefit them.
According to the report, 77 percent of respondents said that they’ve made mistakes when signing up for their benefits, with 42 percent saying they lost money because of their bad decisions.
Not surprisingly, one of the most common mistakes that people admitted was failing to sign up for additional benefits like flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Nationwide, only 20 percent of employees participate in this program that can help them save significantly on their out-of-pocket health costs.
It’s not a question of whether consumers need FSAs, since nearly everyone has out-of-pocket health expenses each year ($3,280 on average for a family of four according to Milliman Medical). Moreover, trends show that employers are transferring more of the burden of rising health care costs to participants.
Beyond lack of education, one of the biggest reasons why folks forget to take advantage of the benefit each year is because they are not automatically reenrolled in the program. If employees choose to keep “the same benefits as last year,” their health insurance and 401(k) choices from the previous year will typically remain the same. However, the default for FSA contributions is zero. As a result, up to 20 percent of FSA participants from previous years simply forget to re-enroll.
If emphasizing the need to reenroll in FSAs isn’t already a part of your communications efforts, be sure to include it this year. And if you’ve brought it up in the past, I would encourage you to find new ways to highlight it.
For those who want to learn more about FSAs and tax-free accounts, excellent resources are available on the website www.savesmartspendhealthy.com, including an easy to browse list of eligible expenses, a savings calculator and a video library.
Here’s to the start of another open enrollment season!