A new study examines how employers are using health savings accounts (HSA-qualified plans). Buck Consultants, a national survey company, surveyed 300 small-to-medium sized employers. More than half had at least four years of experience offering HDHPs and HSAs, and generating significant employee participation in those plans.

How much do employers contribute to HSAs?

Almost three-quarters of the employers surveyed believe HSA and HSA-qualified plans are important tools in controlling health care costs. Sixty-nine percent indicated that they contribute to their employees’ HSA-qualified plan. The average employer reported contributing $1,000 annually for individual coverage and $1,500 per year for family coverage.

Employers who reported making a higher contribution were generally pairing it with a higher deductible plan. Almost half said they contribute to their account throughout the year, spreading payments out over multiple pay periods. And, many are seeding their HSA account, with about one quarter making a flat contribution at the beginning of the year. Other trends the survey revealed about HSA contributions include:

  • 10 percent match employee contributions
  • 62 percent contribute with a flat contribution, or they contribute regardless of deductible, employee contribution or job classification
  • None base their contributions on income level
  • Only 5 percent said they provide additional HSA contributions for participating in health management programs (38 percent of those would consider completing a health risk appraisal)
  • More than 80 percent plan to continue offering HSA plans in the next three years

How do employers promote employee participation in HSAs?

For the average respondent, almost 90 percent of employees were eligible to participate in their HSA plans. Almost half were electing to participate. The majority of employers agreed that educating employees to understand the value of HSAs was key to gaining successful participation. The three communication tools they preferred most were:

  • Employee meetings during enrollment
  • Access to an insurance expert or agent
  • Ongoing communication throughout the year

More than half of the respondents also valued:

  • Medical cost estimation tools (out-of-pocket)
  • Online education and health plan tools
  • Print communications
  • HSA funding modeling tools
  • Open enrollment fairs
  • Phone-based communication was least preferred

Employers reported several barriers to their efforts to implement HSA plans:

  • Educating employees
  • Finding health care pricing tools
  • Educating human resource staff
  • Finding health care quality tools
  • Opening their HSA account
  • Funding their accounts and integrating data with the medical carrier were the least challenging

Other health-related programs can support HSA-Qualified Plans

Employers were asked to share what other health-related programs they offered to support their HSA benefit plan. These include wellness, behavior change and medical management programs that are offered in the marketplace.

Respondents rated obtaining preventive care and refraining from tobacco use as important or extremely important, but the majority did not highly value other wellness, behavior change and medical management programs as highly. Less than 30 percent said they place a high degree of importance on health risk appraisals, biometric screening, disease management programs, health coaching and education.

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