Yearly Archives:
2018

Insights and Actions from AHIP Institute & Expo 2018

Insights and Actions from AHIP Institute & Expo 2018

07/10/2018

by Becky Wagner

 

At this year’s America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) Institute & Expo 2018, which I and several of my WEX Health team members attended, one session—“Navigating Uncertainty, Health Reform and Market Transition”—hinted at the great need to simplify the business of healthcare. WEX Health works to do just that—through feedback from real members, it powers CDH account and COBRA administration forms that make managing healthcare engaging and easier to understand.

With sessions like “Technology, Trends and Business Insight,” “Data, Analytics and Actionable Intelligence” and many others, one thing that struck me above all is that technology was part of every conversation. It’s clear that technology sits front and center among the methods and tools to improve healthcare for consumers, payers and providers. Needless to say, its value goes way beyond creating engaging consumer portals and one-to-one journeys. It stretches into how new technologies can help people better manage their health to cut down on the need for unnecessary care and help reduce healthcare costs. And WEX is committed to advancing technology to better serve its customers for all those reasons and more.

 

Some additional highlights we gleaned from the San Diego Convention Center include:

Consumer-health literacy remains a problem. This means that it is more important than ever for health plans to simplify messaging and documents they share with their members. For consumer-directed healthcare to continue on its growth trajectory, consumers must be provided with not just accurate information but information that is presented in ways that are easily understood.

There is a continued desire to slow the growth of and reduce healthcare costs by providing innovative ways to seek care. Some of these methods include telemedicine, cost comparison tools and machine learning. Though the tools are available, they have been met with some resistance from consumers in deploying them. Therefore, the next step is to encourage people to take advantage of tools to make smarter decisions.

Leaders in this industry must learn to build a team of people with a wide array of expertise to ensure organizational success, because the field requires such wide-ranging skills as it expands and seeks to meet the needs of consumers. Successful leadership, in other words, means realizing that it’s not always about being the best and the brightest individually—but it’s more about being the best team for the business.

AHIP CEO Matt Eyles gave an engaging presentation on the growing recognition from payers that social determinants significantly impact chronic disease. These factors must be accounted for—and mitigated, whenever possible—by efforts to address them earlier in the consumer healthcare journey.

 

We left the expo with the conviction that consumer-directed healthcare is on the path to flourish. The businesses and organizations who tend to the industry are engaging in lively conversations and smart and strategic plans to ensure that it does.

It’s no secret that using technology to influence smarter healthcare decisions is top of mind. The WEX Health Clear Insights Report sheds light on how members prepare for open enrollment and saving for healthcare expenses.

Click here to view the report: http://wexhealthinc.com/clearinsights-ahip2018/.

 


BeckyWagner_WEXHealth

Becky Wagner

Senior Marketing Manager at WEX Health

As the Senior Marketing Manager for the Health Plan Vertical, Becky connects market-driven insights to develop campaigns and content that resonate with consumer-directed healthcare account administrators and consumers. She is an experienced marketer with an MBA from the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management. With over three years in the healthcare industry, Becky has experience in marketing, product development and account management at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Further.

An Interview with Partner Conference Keynoter Sally Hogshead

Be Fascinating: An Interview with Partner Conference Keynoter Sally Hogshead

07/09/2018

 

This past spring, New York Times bestselling author Sally Hogshead delivered a motivational keynote at WEX Health Partner Conference 2018. Before doing so, each of our Partners in attendance took her 28-question Fascination Advantage personality test—the first personality test to measure not how you see yourself but how others see you. As a result, Sally customized her keynote about what high performers do differently to also reveal some of the traits that set the WEX Health Partner Conference audiences apart. In this interview, we asked her for more insights into our Partners’ test results as well as how her personality assessment has allowed people around the world to be more effective communicators.

 

WEX Health (WH): Tell us what you learned about WEX Health Partners in attendance at Partner Conference from reviewing their assessment results.  

 

Sally Hogshead (SH): There were very specific patterns in how that roomful of leaders communicated differently than the average population. When people take the Fascination Advantage assessment, it’s measuring the cues and signals that you send out into the world that determine how other people see you, what kind of first impression you make, and how they perceive you as adding value or not. We are measuring on seven different data points—seven different forms of communication. And after measuring 1 million people, we found that there is an average result, and the WEX Health Partners’ result was different than the average result.

 

Here is what we learned: WEX Health Partners’ scores were lower in passion and very high in trust. I had this data before I got on stage, so I knew this group did not want touchy-feely, emotionally evocative stories. They want results; they want outcomes; they want action steps. So, I presented a deep-dive analysis on the audience. Each person individually in the audience had their own personal results, but we also did the audience as an aggregate. Our two key findings: First, the group does not communicate with emotion; they communicate in other ways. So, if I was going to come up on stage and try to tell a story about pulling out hair or teeth, that wouldn’t resonate.

 

On the other hand, they scored very high in trust. Neurologically, trust is all about patterns and doing things with dependability and stability. It’s about finding a way to replicate what’s been done in the past. This group as a whole scored 48 percent higher than the average person in trust. What that means is this group is going to be dependable and stable.

 

The takeaway is that because this group scores so high in trust but lower in passion, it’s important that the leaders in the room have people on their team who score high in innovation—people who can experiment, make improvements and adopt something new. You also need people around you who score high in passion to make sure that everyone stays involved, engaged and emotionally connected to the outcome.

 

WH: It’s interesting that instead of saying that our Partners need to change to be more passionate, you’re saying they need to surround themselves with people who complement their strengths and weaknesses.

 

SH: After measuring 1 million people inside of companies like GE, AT&T, Cisco, QUALCOMM and IBM, what we see is that the highest-performing teams are not built on similarities. They’re built on differences. They are not built on group think, where everyone has one model of adding value, because then the team becomes lopsided. Instead, the groups value how different people on the team add value. For example, if somebody is really good at details, then the team supports that individual in getting hyper-involved in the details and making sure that they bring their eye for detail to every project. Don’t ask that person to be the brainstormer in charge of the big-picture vision. And conversely, people who are super creative can’t add value if they’re told to just focus on the details; that doesn’t allow that person to become a high performer.

 

WH: How does understanding your Fascination Advantage help you as an individual?

 

SH: Every time you communicate, you’re doing one of two things: You are either adding value, or you are taking up space. The people who have the most value are not only the most successful, but they’re also the most admired, appreciated and promoted. They inspire loyalty; they create evangelists. They’re bringing something to the table that wasn’t there before. If you’re just taking up space, it’s sort of like being spam. So, the question is: How are you most likely to add value? You can’t do a self-evaluation of how you think you add value. Adding value is sort of like humor. If I think I’m funny, but you don’t think I’m funny, I’m not funny. It lives in the eyes of the other person. This is true for a brand, too. The purpose of the assessment is not to understand how you see yourself or how you see the world. The purpose is to determine how other people see you so that you can do what you are already doing right, with purpose, instead of it being a happy accident. You can double down on the qualities that make you exceptional, such as detail-orientation or creativity, and then do that on purpose.

 

WH: In this era of “fake news,” short attention spans and short news cycles, would you say that it’s more important now than ever to be able to quickly get to the heart of what makes you special?

 

SH: Yes, absolutely. Authenticity is the opposite of fake news. If people perceive that you’re contrived or that you’re trying to do something that isn’t a natural fit for you, that you’re trying to create an impression instead of adding value, it’s a huge turn-off. As far as short attention spans, in 2006, I started studying attention spans and why we pay attention to one thing versus another. At the time, the research said that the average attention span was nine seconds, which is the same as a goldfish. Since then, there has been a lot of other research done, most notably by Microsoft, that says it’s eight seconds. Regardless, it’s continually getting shorter. That means we have less time and space to create those first moments when we add value. As attention spans get shorter, it’s not the listener’s job to pay attention. It’s the speaker’s job to earn attention.

 

WH: For people who work in industries that are often thought of as boring, how do you help them imagine being fascinating and to find ways for their business to be fascinating?

 

SH: When I worked in advertising, it was always really fun to work on the Nike account or the Mini Cooper account because those brands do exciting, attention-grabbing, memorable things. The problem is, the bar is so high that it’s hard to stand out and do extraordinary, world-changing, creative things for those brands, in the sense that the great stuff has already been done, to a certain extent.

 

The opposite is true with B2B brands in industries like insurance, banking, technology, health, etc., because it’s actually easier to stand out because the bar is set lower. People aren’t walking into a meeting and thinking, “How can I intentionally add value in a way that people will hear, remember and take action on?” If an individual does do that, if they think, “The way in which I will most likely add value in this meeting is by showing them ideas they’ve never thought of and helping them see the world in a different way so they can stand out, be heard and get people to take action,” then that’s a novel way of approaching it. In other words, the question is—what makes you fascinating in the ears of your listener?

 

WH: Are there any other words of encouragement that you would offer specifically to WEX Health Partners?

 

SH: I loved this audience because they are focused leaders with a savvy, big-picture understanding of the industry and how they can serve. I also saw that there was a lot of hunger for them to be able to take the Fascination Advantage back to their teams so that they could introduce this as a new technology to measure how different people add value individually. I had a lot of follow-up requests afterward asking for more tools, so I made a code available to WEX Health Partners who want to take the test. (WEX Health Partners reading this post can find information about this code within Partner Central and the Partner Pulse newsletter.)

 

My advice is to have team meetings focused on it: Have everybody in your office do the assessment, and then have a meeting around it—a lunch-and-learn, or an off-site, or even just a casual 20-minute meeting. Go around the circle and have each person describe one quality of themselves that is who they are at their best. It’s an incredibly motivating thing to show somebody what they are already doing right.

 

Keep Your Data Safe: Our Head of Infrastructure and Operations Shares His Top 3 Tips

Keep Your Data Safe: Our Head of Infrastructure and Operations Shares His Top 3 Tips

07/02/2018

by Jesse Braasch

 

It’s rare for a week to go by without news breaking of a data breach at a top company. As such, I continually receive questions about what our Partners can do to reduce their risk of such a breach within their own business. In a previous post, we outlined the biggest threats to data security and privacy in healthcare; today, I want to share what you can do to protect the personal healthcare information (PHI) entrusted to you by your customers or employees from breach or fraud. Here are my top tips:

 

Just get started.

What should you do to keep bad actors away from your systems? My No. 1 data-protection tip for any Partner using our WEX Health Cloud platform, or even pertaining to your own data in your own business, is to get started. Consider how you’re leveraging the existing tools and services already available to you, and you don’t have to rely entirely on your IT team to do so. For instance, our WEX Health Cloud platform has numerous security and fraud prevention features built in that Partners can choose to leverage. These security features aren’t mandated; our Partners need to choose for themselves which they’re going to enable for their use of the system. It comes down to how you train your staff to leverage the tools and services available to them to reduce your risk.

 

Give data security the attention it deserves.

When evaluating SaaS solutions, many companies are most focused on availability or the performance or scale of a solution. That’s important stuff, but not as important as trust. When you bring your business and all your data to a SaaS solution and begin to look at that solution as a service provider, you must trust that the provider can provide security and infrastructure that’s not only as good as what you have now, but much better. Look for any SaaS company you partner with to take that partnership with you very seriously to ensure their services become a seamless extension of the services you provide.

 

Don’t react. Hunt.

In the world of security and fraud prevention, a lot of the technology has been structured around preventing financial and data loss. However, in data security, there’s recently been an important shift in focus away from preventing or reacting to breaches toward actively “hunting” for them. By restructuring your security processes so that you’re concentrated on hunting out a breach and limiting its negative impact rather than preventing it, you’ll ultimately do more to protect yourself and your customers. That’s because it’s not a matter of if a data breach will happen but when and you need to take proactive steps before it does to minimize its overall negative impact. While this sounds scary, this concept is exactly why we all have smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, evacuation procedures, posted exits and fire drills. Those are all proactive measures taken before a fire happens to reduce the damage when it does. To limit the negative outcomes, do your best to prevent, but detect and react fast.

 

For more on the best approach to data security, we invite you to watch our video about data security in the healthcare space:

 


Jesse Braasch

Vice President of Infrastructure and Operations at WEX Health

Jesse Braasch is the Vice President of Infrastructure and Operations at WEX Health, the largest Software as a Service (SaaS) company in the healthcare payment market today. His favorite saying is, “The most dangerous phrase in the English language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way!’” In the ever-changing, always dynamic world of consumer directed healthcare, Jesse’s dedication to innovation and excellence will continue to keep WEX Health at the forefront of the current healthcare revolution.

As the consumer driven healthcare industry grows exponentially, Jesse will help ensure WEX Health’s technical ecosystem has best-in-breed features, stability, security, and quality of service so the company is able to scale in parallel with the industry. Jesse’s passion is delivering creative yet rock solid technologies that truly solve the needs of the customer and enable speed to market.

Regarded as a veteran of the technology industry, Jesse has over twenty years of experience working for industry leading SaaS corporations and Fortune 500 companies. Most recently Jesse was Director of Infrastructure for XRS Corporation, a SaaS company providing trucking fleet management solutions, where he led server, storage, database, and IT operations teams. Prior to working at XRS, Jesse held technical and team leadership positions at Target Corporation, Fair Isaac Corporation, and Travelers Indemnity Company.

After serving in the United States Marine Corps, Jesse earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology from Capella University, and is currently pursuing his Masters of Science degree in Security. Jesse, his wife, and two teenage sons live in Maple Grove, MN, where he is an active volunteer in the community’s youth ice hockey association.

6 Things I Learned at SHRM’s Annual Conference

Our VP of Human Resources: 6 Things I Learned at SHRM’s Annual Conference

06/26/2018

by Sherry Olson

 

Last week, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) annual conference and expedition brought over 17,000 HR professionals and 3,000 vendors to Chicago for keynotes, sessions and special events. On the exposition floor, 700 exhibitors provided a buffet of HR solutions for every need, with a focus on HR technology, talent acquisition and retention solutions, health, wellness, leadership development and more.

 

In addition to what I learned during the keynotes and sessions, I found significant value in the many opportunities for networking, which gave me a chance to connect personally, share experiences, perspectives and challenges and creatively look at new ways to approach the diverse workforce needs that WEX Health faces every day. I thought these learnings would be valuable for our partners, many of whom work in human resources. What follows are my key takeaways from the conference:

 

  1. Company culture must start in HR: This was reinforced in many of the sessions I attended, with the call to action being that HR must come to understand the strong influence they have on organizational cultures. From recruitment to engagement, the best companies don’t just assess a candidate’s fit; they look for originality (people who challenge others, processes and systems) and focus on assessing and hiring people who can enrich the culture.

 

  1. Change biases through recruiting, benefits/leave and compensation programs: Many initiatives now exist to detect biases in the workplace and to address them, including pay and gender analysis for disparities, enhanced parental and bereavement leave policies, and the use of alternative ways to review and engage candidates in the recruiting process. Human resources professionals need to continue to seek out methods for recognizing and addressing bias.

 

  1. To keep talent, expand your benefit offerings: During the conference, SHRM released its 2018 Employee Benefits survey. Among its key findings, 34 percent of organizations increased their benefit offerings in the last year, with 72 percent citing retention as a reason for doing so and over one-half saying they’ve done it to attract new talent (58 percent) and/or respond to employee feedback (54 percent). Companies are also putting a higher priority on benefits today because of historic low unemployment rates and the number of millennials entering the workforce.

 

  1. Employers are more likely to offer employees additional health-related benefits, including consumer-directed healthcare: A statistic from the 2018 Employee Benefits survey revealed that the share of employers offering consumer-directed healthcare plans linked to health savings accounts (HSAs) increased to 56 percent this year—up from 45 percent in 2014. Given the nature of HSA portability, the tax savings these accounts provide, their use in helping to mitigate first dollar costs and to create retirement accounts for the future, HSAs will continue to be a popular topic.

 

  1. Wellness wins: Of organizations that increased their benefits offerings in the last 12 months, 44 percent increased their wellness benefits, according to the SHRM survey. Many of the sessions I attended demonstrated how wellness is being customized, as employers offer to help their employees manage their stress, miss less work and reduce costly health conditions by providing fitness center subsidies, quiet rooms, online stress management and wellness challenges.

 

  1. The future of employee benefits: Emerging and leading-edge benefits include student debt repayment programs, paid leave benefits (parental leave, expanded VTO, review of PTO limits), work life/convenience benefits, financial/career benefits (incentives, awards) and professional/career development benefits (memberships, certifications, licenses, counseling, coaching)—all aimed at higher employee retention. Of special note, the SHRM survey found that the prevalence of paid parental leave increased significantly between 2016 and 2018 for every type of parental leave assessed, including maternity, paternity, adoption, foster child and surrogacy leave.

 

As an HR leader, I’ve returned to WEX from the SHRM conference feeling much more informed, inspired and equipped with tools to solve my organization’s greatest challenges.

 

For more on benefits administration, read our post about why employers should care about their employees’ financial stability.

 


Sherry Olson WEX Health VP of Human Resources

Sherry Olson

Senior Director of Product Management at WEX Health

Sherry specializes in implementation for human resources policies and practices, benefits, rewards, performance management and HR efficiencies. During her 20-plus years in the corporate world, Sherry has served in HR positions in healthcare, high-technology software development and banking. She holds designations as a SHRM Senior Certified Professional, a Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), a certified Discovery Insights Practitioner and career advisor, President-Elect for the Agassiz Valley Human Resources Association (AVHRA) organization.


Where Mobile Meets Financial & Physical Health

Where Mobile Meets Financial & Physical Health

06/20/2018

by Jackie Dornfeld

 

The financial and physical health of many Americans is alarming. About 40 percent of U.S. adults cannot cover a $400 emergency expense1, and less than three percent of Americans live a “healthy lifestyle”2.  In addition, according to the 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights Report, most U.S. workers find healthcare confusing, spend less than 30 minutes annually making benefit decisions, and are increasingly concerned about out-of-pocket medical expenses today and in retirement. All of this can result in a vicious cycle of financial insecurity, leading to stress and chronic disease, and ending in devastating medical expenses and financial ruin. Frightening.

 

Building Resilience

To help break this spiral, consumers need support in developing resilience against health and financial stress. According to the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), helping consumers use good judgement and a strategy to spend, save, borrow, and plan can help build financial health:

Source:  CFSI, Insuring the Way to a Financially Resilient America, June 2018

 

 Enter Consumer-Driven Health and Mobile Technology

A tax advantaged, consumer-driven health account such as a health savings account (HSA), health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), or flexible spending account (FSA) accessed using mobile technology is one specific path to resilience. For instance, paying for qualified medical expenses with HSA funds can yield savings of 22 to 40 percent. And, with 79 percent of U.S. consumers now owning a smartphone3, many consumers prefer using mobile apps to manage both their personal finances and health benefits.  

 

Building the Right Consumer Experience

The WEX Health Cloud Mobile App is an example of how key features can be delivered that help consumers use their consumer-driven health account to spend, save, borrow and plan.

With the WEX Health Cloud Mobile App, Consumers Can…

  • Spend:
    • Use fingerprint login and enhanced authentication options to:
      • Pay bills using HSA, HRA, or FSA funds
      • Snap a photo of a receipt and submit with a new or existing claim
      • Request an HSA distribution
    • Save:
      • Contribute funds to an HSA or FSA to build savings
      • View HSA investment details to gauge progress against savings goals
    • Borrow:
      • Check account balances including HSA Advance, which is a WEX Health feature that allows employees to borrow against future HSA balances to cover unplanned expenses
    • Plan:
      • Scan a product bar code to determine eligibility as a qualified medical expense
      • View “Account Snapshot” graphics to assess status of account details

 

 

Looking to the Future

As consumers become more sophisticated and their digital expectations grow, opportunities exist to enhance and personalize the mobile experience even further with price transparency tools, calculators, targeted messaging, guidance tools, fitness resources, and more. By delivering mobile innovations that engage consumers in managing their financial and physical health, we empower better decision-making and accountability for millions of Americans.

 

To learn more about consumer attitudes and expectations regarding healthcare expenses, preferences for using online tools and mobile apps, and more, read the 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights Report.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Report on the Economic Well-being of U.S. Households, 2017
  2. Healthy Lifestyle Characteristics, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2016
  3. ComScore, 2016

 


Jackie Dornfeld

Senior Director of Product Management at WEX Health

Jackie Dornfeld is the Senior Director of Product Management at WEX Health, responsible for annual product roadmap planning and the research, definition, and launch of new products including the WEX Health Cloud Mobile App.  She has over 25 years in health care including leadership positions in the areas of product development, product management, marketing and strategic planning.  Prior to joining WEX Health in 2008, Jackie held roles in the TPA, health plan, consulting, and hospital industries and is currently active on the Membership Committee of the Women’s Health Leadership Trust.  Jackie received a BA from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.  


Observations from CFSI EMERGE Day 2-3: The Virtuous Cycle of Financial Health

Observations from CFSI EMERGE Day 2-3: The Virtuous Cycle of Financial Health

06/19/2018

by Tracy Faleide

 

It has been nearly a week since I soaked up the last bit of California sunshine outside and thought-provoking content and connections inside during closing sessions at the Center for Financial Services Innovation’s annual conference, CFSI EMERGE. Each request from colleagues to “provide a quick recap” reminds me of another insight that can spark innovative solutioning, resource we can communicate across the network of WEX Health Partners, or quote that could inspire broad mind shifts.

 

Inclusion Is a Choice

The CFSI team brought together an impressive and inspiring group of keynote speakers for this year’s forum. Almost all of them spoke about inclusion in one way or another. In all six of the 2018 Financial Solutions Lab winners I saw new products built by people who found ingenious ways to serve populations whose needs were not previously being met by mainstream financial institutions. Industry leaders Colin Walsh of Varo Money and Jacqueline Reses of Square Inc. shared how their respective missions of making money management tools and business loans easy and readily available to young people and small business owners has radically shifted mind sets and approaches. Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal, inspired us with his stories of growing up with nothing, staying in a state of empathy by spending time living on the streets of New York City as a homeless person, and the responsibility and moral obligation that business leaders have to be forces of good in the world.

 

Fast Money/Slow Money

Always on the lookout for “aha” moments, I certainly was not disappointed at this event. Naveen Agarwal, chief customer officer at Prudential, explained that we all engage in “fast-money” transactions – $18 here, $30 there, $6 at the coffee drive-thru. They are quick, easy and frequent. We don’t give these transactions much thought. And then there are “slow-money” transactions like mortgages or college loans. These kinds of transactions are stressful, requiring collateral, credit checks, co-signers, legal reviews, and dozens of signatures. We’ve been programmed to avoid slow-money transactions, and this automatically informs our financial behaviors, such as renting versus buying to build up equity. When we can apply design thinking across the industry and simplify slow-money transactions to the point where they are as simple as fast-money transactions, we might all be more inclined to make wiser financial decisions.

 

Volatility Is the Real Income Problem

Daryl Collins with Bankable Frontier Associates relayed how similar her interviews were with small family-run business owners in Nigeria and Kentucky. Both had six to eight sources of income, about a third of them unpredictable. Both managed complex juggling acts, prioritizing which bills to pay and which to delay, deftly moving funds between several accounts, and somehow getting by. After having hundreds of these conversations in places all around the world, Daryl discovered a few universal needs—evening out the income streams and making temporary bridges or “floats” available to get through the tight times. I was very encouraged to hear that so many of the new products being launched by industry leaders like MasterCard, Fiserv, PayPal and Square are all about addressing these universal needs—for all people, not just those who already are accustomed to having ready access to financial services…and stability.

 

Thank you for coming along with me on this quick tour of the CFSI EMERGE Financial Health Forum. I am even more excited about the many ways WEX Health can help advance the cause of improved financial health due to our unique position at the intersection of healthcare and financial services. To read my observations on day one at EMERGE, read our post here. And for more information about the Center for Financial Services Innovation, see www.cfsinnovation.org. [https://cfsinnovation.org/]

For more news and insights from WEX Health-ers, follow us on Twitter at @wexhealthinc.

 


Tracy-Faleide WEX Health

 

Tracy Faleide

Marketing Lead at WEX Health

As Marketing Lead at WEX Health, Tracy provides direction on high-level messaging and thought leadership strategies. Tracy and her team are accountable for product marketing and ongoing internal, external and Partner communications. Although Tracy is new to WEX Health, having joined the team in late 2017, she is not new to healthcare or technology, having held several leadership roles in marketing, communications and partner/customer experience in healthcare operational management and business management software and technology companies over the past 30 years.

Everything You Need to Know About Last Week’s Congressional Hearings on HSAs

Everything You Need to Know About Last Week’s Congressional Hearings on HSAs

06/14/2018

by Chris Byrd

 

Last week, two separate congressional committees convened to explore how consumer-directed healthcare plans (CDHPs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), when paired with health savings accounts (HSAs), can make healthcare more affordable and accessible for Americans. American consumers have established more than 22 million HSAs, a figure that has grown steadily in recent years and is expected to reach 27.5 million by 2019.

 

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means health subcommittee held a Capitol Hill hearing on the role of CDHPs in expanding access to healthcare, lowering healthcare costs and increasing the number of choices available to consumers. The hearing addressed everything from trends in HSA enrollment to policies that would give more consumers access to tax-advantaged savings accounts.

 

It began with a testimony by Health Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam, who said, “Healthcare reform should empower individuals and families to make decisions for themselves based on what fits their needs and budget. One of the best tools we have to accomplish this goal is consumer-directed health plans that are paired with HSAs. These plans offer lower premiums and a higher deductible to encourage better use of healthcare services. Engaging consumers in their healthcare spending is critical to reining in our system’s ever-increasing costs.”

 

Other experts who spoke at the hearing include Roy Ramthun, president of HSA Consulting Services; Matt Eyles, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP); Jody Dietel, chief compliance officer for WageWorks; and Sherry Glied, dean of New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

 

The following day, the Joint Economic Committee also met to discuss the potential for HSAs to engage patients and bend the healthcare cost curve. Including members of both the House and the Senate, the committee reviews economic conditions and recommends improvements in economic policy. Among those who spoke at its most recent hearing, Kevin McKechnie of the HSA Council, Tracy Watts of Mercer and the American Benefits Counsel and Dr. Scott Atlas of the Hoover Institution explored statistics on the adoption and usage of HSAs, their effect on healthcare expenditures and both the short and long-term effects of greater adoption of CDHPs and HDHPs/HSAs respectively.

 

Dr. Atlas concluded his testimony with this call to action: “Expanded, liberalized and transferable HSAs represent a key instrument in an overall strategy of broadening access to affordable, high quality healthcare for everyone. If appropriately designed, HSAs represent a strong incentive to consider price and value for those seeking medical care. HSAs offer more effective incentives than tax deductions for health expenses. HSAs have been proven to reduce the cost of medical care for individuals, and also to improve health by increasing the use of validated wellness programs. While expanded HSAs alone are not necessarily a panacea, they are a critically important and effective step.”

 

At the crux of both hearings last week was the assertion that as CDHPs become of increasing importance to Americans, more legislation is needed to make them even more beneficial to consumers; this would require numerous amendments to the tax code.  According to McKechnie “These ideas are vetted, bipartisan, and affordable. Some would actually save taxpayer money. Individually and together, they can dramatically strengthen the proven, successful HSA model.”

 

The House Ways and Means health subcommittee hearing, which streamed live on the web, can be viewed in full below.

 

 
The Joint Economic Committee’s hearing on HSAs can also be viewed in full below:

 

Health savings accounts in many ways offer something for everyone. To learn more about their advantages, read our blog post here.

 


Chris Byrd

Executive Vice President, WEX Health Operations & Corporate Development Officer

Chris Byrd brings more than 25 years of experience in employee benefits and banking to his role at WEX Health. A founder of Evolution Benefits in 2000, Chris played a key role in designing the proprietary architecture for the company’s prepaid benefits card.

Chris oversees the daily execution of WEX Health’s business and leads the company’s operations and service delivery, corporate development, merger and acquisition activity, and legal, industry, and government relations efforts.

He began his career in commercial banking, and prior to 2000, he focused on finance, strategy, and business development for Value Health and two start-up healthcare companies. He joined WEX Health in July 2014.

Chris, who serves on numerous industry boards, is a frequent speaker on emerging trends in financial services and benefits and is active in industry and government relations. He earned a degree in economics from Brown University.  


Observations from CFSI EMERGE Day 1: The Health-Wealth Connection

06/08/2018

by Tracy Faleide

 

I’m reporting from sunny Los Angeles, where the Center for Financial Services Innovation’s big annual conference, CFSI EMERGE, has convened more than 800 finhealth leaders and innovators across sectors to explore financial health. This is WEX Health’s first time at EMERGE, and I’m in full-on learning mode here and loving CFSI’s mission to support day-to-day financial systems that build long-term resilience and opportunity for Americans, in particular the unbanked and the underbanked. CFSI believes that finance can be a force for good in people’s lives, and that serving the needs of consumers responsibly is ultimately more profitable for the financial services industry—values that resonate with WEX Health, too.

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5 Surprising Things You Can Use Your HSA to Pay for This Summer

5 Surprising Things You Can Use Your HSA to Pay for This Summer

06/01/2018

 

With open enrollment many months behind us, few people think much about their health savings account (HSA) during the summer. But now is a great time to take a fresh look at which expenses these accounts can cover, as you can use an HSA to pay for many of your summer essentials—and not all of them are obvious.

 

The IRS defines medical expenses as “the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation,

treatment, or prevention of disease, and the costs for treatments affecting any part or function of the body.” As you gear up for summer travels, remember that these things are considered HSA-eligible products and services:

 

  1. Sunscreen: You can buy thousands of over-the-counter products with your HSA, and one of them is sunscreen/sunblock, so lather it on. Lip balm with an SPF of 15+ is also covered.

 

  1. Prescription Sunglasses: You likely already know that contacts and prescription eyeglasses are a qualified medical expense, but you may not have realized that this also includes prescription sunnies needed for medical reasons.

 

  1. Allergy Testing: All those summer blooms can wreak havoc on your sinuses; feel free to use your HSA to test for allergies to pollen, ragweed or anything else.

 

  1. Band-Aids: Your boo-boos are all covered under your HSA this summer—whether you’re in the market for bandages or Band-Aids, gauze or first aid kits.

 

  1. Medical care outside the U.S.: Worst case scenario, you’re out of the country on a vacation and require medical care. You can use your HSA to pay for treatment in a foreign country as well as any prescribed drug you purchase and consume in another country if the drug is legal in both the other country and the U.S. Further, you can include amounts you pay for transportation to another city if a trip is primarily for, and essential to, receiving medical services. You can also include lodging for the person traveling with the person receiving medical care. However, you can’t include in medical expenses a trip or vacation taken merely for a change in environment, improvement of morale or general improvement of health, even if the trip is made on the advice of a doctor.

 

Things not eligible for HSA coverage: summer camps (even for dependents incapable of self-care), and dancing or swimming lessons (even if they are recommended by a doctor). For the IRS’s full list of qualified medical expenses, visit their website here.

 

Did you know most consumers are enrolling in HSAs to save for their future healthcare needs? Read findings from our new 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights report here.

Effective Uses of Personalization in Healthcare Benefits

Let’s Get Personal: Effective Uses of Personalization in Healthcare Benefits

05/22/2018

by Lisa Goldkamp

 

If you have not read the new WEX Health Clear Insights report, I urge you to take a few minutes to do so. The report is the result of a recently commissioned research study conducted to gain a deeper understanding of employees’ attitudes about healthcare benefits. One of the first things I noticed is that three-quarters of the respondents said they spend less than an hour during open enrollment evaluating the different healthcare options offered by employers. That’s not a lot of time to devote to important decisions that impact both physical and financial wellness. This indicates that there is a very short window of time during open enrollment during which to educate employees about their healthcare benefits and to impact their choices.

 

So, how do we make every one of those minutes count? Our survey respondents indicated that “getting personal” will work best, and they ranked the effectiveness of several types of materials and tools available to aid with personalization. In nearly 13 years at WEX Health, I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of benefits administrators, consultants and advisors. One of the universal challenges these audiences have talked with me about is the education barrier that exists between consumers and healthcare benefit options. I would argue that, although our findings regarding timeframes spent by employees during open enrollment are likely a contributing factor, they support the theory that benefits education must be highly focused and occur on an ongoing basis.

 

“…benefits education must be highly focused and occur on an ongoing basis.”

 

Personalization Can Give Employees an Ongoing, Guided Tour
Think about the volume of information that employees get during open enrollment. It certainly can be overwhelming. Human nature tells us more is better, but in this case the reverse is true. People can only consume the information that is relevant to them in the present. By thinking about employees’ use of benefits as a journey, or a tour, employers can start creating multi-pronged personalized touchpoints before, during and after the enrollment period, using WEX Health Cloud Advanced Messaging capabilities.

 

Here are some examples to consider:

  1. Prior to and during open enrollment, present employees with engaging graphical images and easy to digest information about benefit options that they are not currently enrolled in, and that might help them to save money.
  2. Use specific criteria to target individuals with “people like me” messaging. For instance, provide information about the benefits of adding a LPFSA (Limited Purpose Flexible Spending Arrangement) exclusively to individuals that are have incurred dental expenses and currently have an HSA that is not paired with a LPFSA.
  3. On an ongoing basis, educate consumers about the benefits that they did select. For example, employees who are age 55 and above can be shown eye-catching reminders that they are eligible to make catch-up HSA contributions.

 

The education component must continue well beyond capturing the enrollment. The key is to find ways to help employees see themselves in the examples they receive. The encouraging news is that, while employees do not spend a great deal of time reviewing materials during open enrollment, they do want and are open to help from their employers in becoming better prepared for healthcare expenses.

 

I am explaining some of the ways WEX Health Cloud can be used to create personalized employee experiences in a webinar on Tuesday, June 12, at 1 p.m. Central Time. I’ll be joined by Jeff Bakke, chief strategy officer at WEX Health, who will share more perspective on our research findings. Register here for this 30-minute webinar. I hope you join us!

 


Lisa Goldkamp

Lisa Goldkamp

Vice President of Partner Development and Sales Solutions at WEX Health

As the Vice President of Partner Development and Sales Solutions, Lisa leads the Pre-sales Enablement and Partner Development teams. Lisa strives to ensure every Partner, whether sales distribution or administrative, has the tools to succeed and grow their business through their partnership with WEX Health. Lisa and her team members consult with prospective and current partners as deep technology and solutions experts regarding how the WEX Health offerings match up with their specific needs. Since joining our team in 2005, Lisa has worked with hundreds of partners as they have evaluated our solutions. She is a passionate member of our community who frequently presents at industry events and has used her technology and healthcare expertise to help WEX Health and our partners optimize their growth potential.

Prior to joining WEX Health, Lisa was a sales executive for a national IT training company, which is where she developed a passion for utilizing technology to solve problems and create new business opportunities.