Open enrollment is underway and will continue through the end of the year. And while this is a key time for employees as they enroll in benefits that will protect their health and finances and keep their families secure for the coming year, it is also a crucial opportunity for brokers and their clients to positively position companies with top talent. Increasingly, companies are using their benefits package as a tool and differentiator for talent acquisition and retention.

Consider a recent MetLife survey that explores what the insurer describes as “a new age of benefits.” The survey found that:

  • 61 percent of employees say they are more likely to accept a job that offers health and well-being benefits,

  • 59 percent say health benefits would make them more loyal,

  • 51 percent say they are more likely to accept an offer that comes with financial benefits, and

  • 53 percent say they would be more loyal to a job that has benefits that help them get their finances in order.

The growth of high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) is contributing to an increase in popularity for flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA). In fact, HSA enrollment was up 53.7 percent in 2016, and there were 27.4 million FSAs in use last year, a number that is expected to grow to 32.3 million by 2020.

These tax-advantaged accounts can help cushion the financial burden of HDHP coverage for individuals and families by allowing account holders to set aside pre-tax money to pay for current health expenses while, in the case of HSAs, saving for expenses in retirement.

Despite their growing popularity, FSAs and HSAs are only useful if employees understand them. If employees lack this knowledge, they may not enroll or use their account to its full potential.

So, what can brokers and employers do to maximize enrollment in this valuable benefit and help employees become savvy health care shoppers during open enrollment? Start by communicating the following information to employees.

1. The key benefits of opening an account

The value of saving for health care expenses cannot be overemphasized, but there are few key benefits that employees should be aware of, including:

  • Triple-tax savings

  • Convenience

  • Meeting out-of-pocket maximums, copays and coinsurance

  • Supplementing health plan coverage

  • Saving for “big ticket” items or expenses, such as elective surgery

  • Saving for expenses in retirement

2. How to maximize contributions

The amount each employee contributes to his or her account will depend on their individual circumstances. Start by educating employees about the current contribution limits, the tax benefits of funding their accounts, relevant employer matching, and tools available to help them estimate their annual health care needs. Consider directing employees to an online FSA or HSA calculator to help them plan their contributions and estimate savings.

3. What, if any, spending deadlines apply

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