PIggy bank with coins How do youget to the point where you can move 88 percent of people into anHSA-eligible plan and get a portion of them investing and savingfor their futures? It takes time. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Earlier this year, we were delighted to share the spotlight withour client from Hitachi Vantara for a health savings account (HSA)campaign that created a 30 percent increase in the number ofemployees investing money in their HSAs.

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Since then, we've fielded a lot of questions about how HitachiVantara was able to directly connect the HSA to long-term savings. This is a goal manyorganizations are trying to reach.

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How do you get to the point where you can move88 percent of people into an HSA-eligible plan and get aportion of them investing and saving for their futures? It takestime. It also requires focused, tailored and ongoing education.

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We take ROI seriously, and our clients' HSA success stories allshare consistent themes:

  • They listen to their employees—through focusgroups, surveys, and other feedback mechanisms—to make sure theyunderstand their needs and can tailor plan designs andcommunications accordingly.
  • The plan designs are simple. They'recreated so that it's easy to compare the HSA plan to others. Inaddition, the plan designs generally favor the HSA/high-deductiblehealth plan (HDHP)—making it easier for change-resistantindividuals to justify that choice.
  • The organization is not shy about the value of the HSAplan or plans. Many organizations still want to presenthealth plan choices with a neutral point of view, but this does notinspire people to adopt new things. A clear, bold position aboutwhat's best for employees is key.
  • They use targeted and personalized messages.This makes it easy for individuals to understand how the plans canbenefit them.
  • They make sure that education doesn't stop afterenrollment. This is essential to making sure people have apositive experience once they start using their new plan. And it isthe only way they will ever get to the point of being able toaccumulate and invest HSA dollars.

Understanding your population

One size doesn't fit all when it comes to HSA messaging. There'sa broad spectrum of ways people use these accounts, which is whyit's so important to understand the demographics of your populationand their financial realities.

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In every organization, you have lower-income earners who willhave to use their HSAs like a flexible spending account—and willneed that company contribution to their HSAs to meet theirdeductibles every year. And you have higher earners who may bemaxing out their 401(k) contributions and looking for additionalretirement savings vehicles.

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We think of those two populations as “spenders” vs. “savers.” Ifyour people are primarily lower- to middle-income earners who aretrying to balance their budgets each week, then working towardaccumulating large HSA balances isn't realistic for them. (In fact,for some populations, an HDHP is going to create more financialinstability and won't be the right solution.)

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However, even among highly paid populations, HSA education hasoften focused too much on the spending part of the account ratherthan the savings. This issue can be corrected with goodeducation.

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To help spenders get the most value from the plans, it isimportant to focus on messages that demonstrate the nuts and boltsof how the HSA works with the health plan. Here are sample topicsthat smart companies use:

  • Ways to budget and save on out-of-pocket costs
  • How company contributions work
  • How to access your HSA funds
  • Adding to premium savings via HSAs to save for a rainy day
  • Ways to take advantage of preventive care and other freeservices to stay healthy

For the savers—the people who can afford to pay expensesdirectly and use their HSAs for long-term saving—your messages needto reinforce the value of the HSA as a savings vehicle. Becausethat's where the value of the HSA really is. As a savings vehicle,the HSA can't be beat. But much of the early education about theaccounts entirely missed this point. Messages should educate theseindividuals about:

  • Maintaining the triple-tax savings
  • Using the HSA as an additional retirement savings vehicle
  • Building the health care nest egg
  • Maximizing catch-up contributions

These can be really compelling messages, and they can make theHSA and the switch to saving for the long term much moreappealing—especially for people looking for additional tax savings.But it is a mental leap to say, “I'm going to spend potentiallythousands of dollars each year out of my own pocket rather thantouch this account to pay for medical care now.” I still often meetsenior benefits leaders who don't use that strategy themselves!

Hitachi Vantara's HSA secrets to success

Over many years, Hitachi Vantara, a data storage provider and asubsidiary of Hitachi Ltd., has focused on helping its employeesmake the most of their HSAs. Yet few employees who were enrolled inthe HSA-eligible medical plans were investing their HSA balances,even if their accounts held large enough balances to do so. At thecore of the issue was that most employees were unaware thatinvesting was even an option. In addition, investing was oftenperceived as confusing and difficult to do.

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To address these issues, we helped Hitachi Vantara create aseries of tip sheets to explain the powerful advantages of an HSA,including how people can invest their savings to cover futurehealth care expenses. The campaign used friendly visuals and simplelanguage to illustrate the benefits of investing. It educated themabout the power of investing HSA dollars, such as paying no tax oninterest earned from investments, low-fee investment options,furthering the growth potential of the funds, and the fact that anytime they needed the money, it was there for them to access.

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Hitachi Vantara reinforced this messaging with targeted emails:

  • Account holders who didn't have a high enough balance to investtheir HSA dollars received targeted tips on how to save more.
  • Account holders who had a high enough balance to invest, butweren't investing, were sent messages that encouraged them toconsider the savings potential they were missing and educated themon how easy it was to get started with investing.

The company continued to drive this message home by including itin other campaigns, such as Benefit-of-the-Month emails, and byhighlighting the HSA's tax advantages during annual enrollment.

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Just one month after the campaign launch, Hitachi Vantara saw a30 percent increase in the number of account holders investingtheir HSA dollars with one HSA provider. HSA education will keepcoming in order to make sure employees maximize the advantages oftheir accounts. Delivering tailored, focused, and ongoing educationcan help people see the value in HSAs and inspire them to use thisimportant and powerful tool to link health and wealth.

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Jennifer Benz ([email protected]) headsSegalBenz, a national leader in HR and employee benefitscommunications.


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