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HDHPs and HSAs: Motivating Participants To Think Like Consumers

It’s not rocket science that health savings accounts (HSAs) allow accountholders to save money on medical expenses. But what HSAs and high deductible health plans (their partner health coverage) also help accountholders take more ownership over their health? That’s what a recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Anne Elmlinger, Greenwald & Associates indicates.

The study indicated that employees enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP) were more likely to act like consumers. They more frequently checked plan coverage, asked about generic medications, and discussed treatment options and alternatives with their physicians. They also participated in more wellness programs, health assessments, screening programs, and were more engaged with their overall healthcare than those in a traditional plan.

The survey also pointed out opportunities for even more progress. Roughly 25% of those who were eligible to open an HSA didn’t have one, which means they’re missing out on major tax savings. The survey suggested that if employers and HSA providers did a better job of educating their people, HDHPs and HSA enrollment might be even higher. Roughly 30% of HDHP participants even admitted they were not as familiar with the plan as they needed to be.

The study showed that employers can maximize HDHP/HSA benefits with just a few changes:

First, employers need to coordinate and integrate HSAs with their wellness programs. A good way to do this is to provide a cash prize or reward for participating in wellness programs; that gives employees the double incentive of improving their health and winning a financial prize.

Second, employers should make the employee’s portion of the premium lower for HDHPs than for other traditional plans. This lower monthly premium will help even out the higher deductibles participants will have under an HDHP.

Third, employers need to contribute to their employees’ HSAs. The survey found that a significant percentage of employers are doing this already. Also, contribution levels are rising in an effort to make the HSA a more viable choice.

Fourth, employers need to provide ongoing education about HDHP and HSAs’ benefits. Employees consistently reported that they don’t fully understand their health plans, and who wants to enroll in something they don’t understand? However, an ongoing healthcare education campaign can pay big dividends for employees and employers alike.


Employers, we can help you roll out an HSA program that your employees will understand, get behind, and jump to enroll in. Learn more here.