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Consumer-Driven Healthcare

5 Ways to Shake Up Your Open Enrollment Strategy This Year

5 Ways to Shake Up Your Open Enrollment Strategy This Year

11/14/2018

by Lindsay Jacobs

 

As temperatures drop and the fall season comes to an end, stress spikes in HR departments all over the country—that’s because it’s open enrollment season. Open enrollment is a window during which individuals and employees may add or drop their health insurance, or make changes to their coverage. The 2019 open enrollment period runs through Saturday, December 15, 2018, and if your employees don’t act by then, they can’t get 2019 coverage unless they qualify for a special enrollment period. Keep in mind that for employer-sponsored coverage, the open enrollment period is set by the employer, so be sure to clearly communicate these dates to your employees.  To make a better impact on your employees this year and drive engagement to new levels, here are a few suggestions on how to innovate your strategy.

 

1. Make Your Benefit Meetings Fun

Who says that employee benefits can’t be enticing? Consider creating a workplace party or fun event at your employee benefits meeting this year. With bean bag toss games, door prizes or even a raffle drawing, you’re more likely to draw a crowd and to get your message heard. You’ll also be there in-person to answer any questions someone may have about their benefits, and nothing beats personal interaction.

 

 

2. Meet Your Millennial Employees Where They Are

Millennials are now the largest generation in the labor force, and their preferences should be taken into consideration when picking your employee benefits communication strategy. Long, lengthy paragraphs of dry content won’t be cutting it for this group; instead, consider using interactive quizzes or digital communications to reach them with pertinent information. As younger professionals, they might not have the expertise in life insurance or retirement planning, so introducing some educational tools would also be beneficial to help ensure they make the best decision for themselves.

 

3. Don’t Try to Guess; Find Out What Your Employees Want

Are your employees interested in consumer-directed healthcare plans? Would they appreciate participating in a workplace wellness program if it was made available? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, ask for them. That’s the best way to find out what employees are looking for in the ideal benefits package. Conducting a survey prior to enrollment is a great way to show employees that you’re engaged in what they’re looking for, and asking for feedback afterwards will show you how much progress you’ve made.

 

4. Simple Is Better

Let’s be honest: Fine print is exhausting. Do your employees a favor and outline the benefits and disadvantages of each plan option so that there’s a clear understanding of expectations, costs and advantages. Simple charts, engaging videos and quizzes help to make difficult benefit decisions easier for the average participant and will eliminate the hassle of questions entering your inbox.

 

5. Keep the Conversation Going

After employees have made their decisions and enrollment is complete, the conversation regarding benefits and best practices does not have to end. Consider touching base with your employees every few months with tips and tricks regarding their benefit plans and how to save costs and utilize the tools available. This will not only make the next year’s enrollment easier due to better understanding, but will make employees feel that they are an equal participant in their benefit plan and taking control of their overall health.

 

We hope these tips will help you to evolve your open enrollment strategy this year. Looking for more insights? Read about what consumers care about during open enrollment and what employees need to know about their HSA and FSA dollars at year end.

 


Lindsay Jacobs WEX Health

Lindsay Jacobs

Marketing Content Strategist at WEX Health

Lindsay Jacobs is a Content Strategist at WEX Health where she focuses on developing strategic and engaging consumer-driven healthcare content to elevate the WEX Health brand and help WEX Health Partners grow and succeed. She graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN and completed her Master’s in Business Administration at Hamline University in August 2018.

WEX Health 5 Back-to-School Expenses You Can Cover with Your HSA, HRA or FSA

5 Back-to-School Expenses You Can Cover with Your HSA, HRA or FSA

08/29/2018

 

What do reading, writing and arithmetic have to do with your consumer-directed health (CDH) account? You may not know that you can use the funds you’ve been squirreling away in your health savings account (HSA), health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) or flexible spending account (FSA) to cover some of the back-to-school expenses that hit all at once this time of year. To mitigate those costs, here are five things you can use your CDH account to pay for now:

 

  1. Vaccinations: Need to get up to date on immunizations before school starts? They’re eligible for reimbursement with an FSA, HSA or HRA. And when flu season follows, don’t forget you can also use your CDH account for your annual flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccination each year to build up an immunity to the virus prior to flu season.

 

  1. School and sports physical exams: You can take care of this standard checkup with the funds you’ve saved into your FSA, HSA or HRA. For children heading back to school or onto a sports field, these annual exams are necessary to assess their physical well-being, build their medical history and gather the necessary paperwork to ensure that they’re up to date on state-required vaccines.

 

  1. Eye exams and corrective eyewear: Speaking of physicals, your child’s physician will likely check their eyesight during their physical. But should he or she need the services of an optometrist or ophthalmologist, you can also turn to your CDH account to cover the cost of both the eye exam and any corrective eyewear, including prescription glasses and contacts.

 

  1. Certain medical and orthopedic supplies: With back-to-school germs and boo-boos (acquired both on playgrounds and sports fields) on the horizon, you’ll be happy to know that you can use your FSA, HSA or HRA to stock up ahead of time on things like bandages, children’s pain relievers, first-aid kits, lice treatments and thermometers. Likewise, certain orthopedic supplies for student athletes are also eligible for reimbursement, including ankle, knee and back braces/wraps, athletic tape and arch supports.

 

  1. Acne treatments: The most common skin condition in the U.S., acne is extremely prevalent in pre-teens and teenagers especially. Eighty-five percent of people ages 12 to 24 experience at least mild acne. Acne is considered a disease, so the cost of treating it, whether with OTC meds, topical prescriptions, antibiotics or other medicines, qualifies as an eligible expense for CDH account holders.

 

With the number of active high-deductible healthcare plans (HDHPs) on the rise, CDH accounts are also becoming far more common, as consumers look for ways to take more financial responsibility for their healthcare expenses. This makes it more important than ever to educate consumers about their HSA, HRA or FSA and what expenses can be covered by these accounts.

 

Have questions about health savings accounts? We have answers to the most common questions about these tax-advantaged savings vehicles.

Must-Listen Podcast: Opportunities for Banks in the HSA Market

Must-Listen Podcast: How Consumers View and Engage With Their Healthcare Benefits

08/08/2018

 

Jeff Bakke, Chief Strategy Officer at WEX Health, is a featured guest on Besler’s Hospital Finance Podcast. He discusses the findings of the WEX Health Clear Insights Report which looks at how consumers view and engage with their healthcare benefits.

We invite you to take a listen:

 

Visit the full blog post here

Most Consumers Are Enrolling in HSAs to Save for Their Future Healthcare Needs

Most Consumers Are Enrolling in HSAs to Save for Their Future Healthcare Needs

05/16/2018

 

When faced with high deductibles, more women with breast cancer are postponing getting the care they need, according to a recent New York Times article, which profiles a woman named Pam Leonard who put off going to get a lump in her breast looked at for weeks because she feared the cost of both her deductible and medical bills.

 

A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Clinical Oncology supports this, finding that women enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) experience delays in diagnostic breast imaging, breast biopsy, early-stage breast cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy initiation (by an average of seven months). Dr. J. Frank Wharam, a Harvard researcher and one of the study’s authors, told the Times that unlike people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, women diagnosed with breast cancer are usually not prepared for the significant expenses associated with it.

 

Unexpected healthcare costs are a significant concern

WEX Health’s new Clear Insights report supports this; a quarter of our survey respondents said they forgo healthcare services all the time or often due to associated out-of-pocket expenses. It should also come as no surprise that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed are somewhat or very worried about unexpected out-of-pocket costs of current healthcare needs or illnesses, and of those people, nearly half are also worried about the cost of healthcare in retirement.

 

HDHP plan participants feel they make smarter health decisions

More than three-quarters (82 percent) of those who participate in HDHPs told us they either somewhat or strongly agree that managing their health savings account (HSA) helps them make smarter health decisions.

 

HSAs provide relief for some

The primary reason our survey respondents enrolled in an HSAs in addition to their HDHP was to save for future healthcare needs (36 percent) and to have an ability to save for out-of-pocket and/or unexpected medical costs (29 percent). If faced with an unexpected health cost of more than $1,000, a third of the respondents with HDHPs say they would use their HSA account.

 

Education is key: Employees need help figuring out how much money to set aside

Since our survey respondents said they could use help figuring out how much money to set aside for their healthcare expenses, our report also called employers to help their employees set and achieve their financial goals with financial planning and management tools. For example, employers can gauge their employees’ capacity to pay for out-of-pocket expenses at any given time by viewing their overall Health Financial Viability Index on the WEX Health Cloud Employer Portal. And using the HSA Healthcare Savings Goal and Tracker, employees can gain more control over their healthcare finances. The Investment Dashboard, which is available on the WEX Health Cloud Consumer Portal, also makes it easier for workers to track their HSA investments. And since some workers are new to HDHPs and the stress that can accompany unpredictable out-of-pocket expenses, employers may choose to provide a safety net by enabling HSA Advance functionality that allows employees to borrow against future HSA balances to cover unplanned expenses.

 

To learn more about our 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights report findings, register here for our upcoming 30-minute webinar on Tuesday, June 12, at 1 p.m. Central Time. We’ll be sharing calls to action based on the types of experiences and communications employees expect and prefer as they work to better manage their healthcare benefits and expenses.

Employers, These are the Current Benefits Issues You Need to Know About

Employers, These are the Current Benefits Issues You Need to Know About

3/20/2018

by Chris Byrd

 

We’ve just returned from Capitol Hill, where WEX Health attended the nonprofit Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC) 37th annual conference, March 14-16, to promote choice in benefit solutions. Much of the conversation in D.C. this year was around three major issues which affect tax-advantaged health benefit accounts that are a central element of a Consumer-Directed Health strategy:

 

  1. The Excise Tax on High-cost Health Plans.

Commonly known as the Cadillac Tax, this provision of the Affordable Care Act has been delayed yet again until 2022. Although this is helpful for employers concerned by the implications of this tax – especially those in high-cost states – a delay only defers this issue and does not represent a final resolution.  Given that many employers set their benefit strategies years in advance, 2022 is not terribly far away.  Among the actions employers are already taking or evaluating is curtailing or eliminating Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) from their benefit offerings.  Employee contributions to these accounts are counted toward the computation of whether the employee’s benefit plan exceeds the excise tax threshold.  Efforts continue to repeal the tax entirely, but if full repeal cannot be accomplished, to reform the tax by excluding employee contributions to CDH accounts.

 

  1. Strengthening HSAs.

Numerous bills have been introduced in both chambers of Congress to increase the availability and utility of HSAs to help individuals and families plan for and fund their health care needs.  The focal point of discussion is around the HSA “gold standard” bills – S. 403 and H.R. 1175.  These bills include a broad range of important provisions, including an increase in contribution amounts, allowing Medicare-eligible workers to continue contributing to an HSA, and restoring the tax-advantaged treatment of over-the-counter drugs and medicines.  In addition to these bills, there is increased discussion regarding a proposal to allow HSA-qualified health insurance plans to cover certain chronic-care conditions below the deductible.  This idea actually originated with the employer community and is now gaining traction.

 

  1. Supporting and Enhancing FSAs.

As are an important option for employees, particularly since surveys indicate the vast majority of employers offer traditional health insurance that is not HSA-qualified as one of their options in their benefit plans. H.R. 1204 would raise the limit that an employee may contribute to an FSA from $2,650 to $5,000.  This would benefit individuals and families with high healthcare costs, particularly those dealing with chronic conditions.

 

Based on what we heard in D.C., prospects for near-term action on these issues are somewhat limited.  It is, after all, an election year, and as the calendar advances, the ability to move legislation that isn’t “must pass” becomes more challenging.  In the healthcare arena, the biggest issues are the opioid crisis, stabilizing the individual insurance market, and prescription drug pricing/affordability.  In addition, the administration continues to advance regulatory reform, including supporting innovation and flexibility in plan design, distribution, and state regulation and programs (e.g. Medicaid).  With all this said, however, HSAs also continue to occupy an important place in the administration’s healthcare policy, and so there may be an opportunity to advance provisions that would strengthen these accounts.

 

As we have seen in the past, the healthcare landscape in Washington is highly fluid, so the best advice is to stay tuned for updates and developments as they happen

 


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.  


By the Numbers: The Latest in Mobile Payments Data

By the Numbers: The Latest in Mobile Payments Data

11/20/2017

 

By most accounts, consumer adoption of the mobile payments trend has increased steadily, as consumers grow to understand its value and their concerns about security are assuaged. While some analysts say that B2B and retail can be expected to embrace mobile payments in the greatest numbers in the years to come, companies across industries, including healthcare, have used 2017 to explore emerging mobile payments opportunities, capabilities and challenges.

 

Some recent stats on mobile payments:

 

  • 83 percent: Percentage of U.S. consumers who owned a smartphone in June 2017 as compared to 79 percent in October 2016 (JPMorgan)

 

  • 360.4 million: Number of mobile payments users in 2017; this is expected to nearly double by 2021 to 663.8 million users (Statista)

 

  • $622.75: How much the average mobile payments user will have spent on mobile payments in 2017; this is expected to grow to $1,303.85 by 2021 (Statista)

 

  • 41 percent: Percentage of consumers who are likely to try digital wallets in the next year (JPMorgan)

 

  • 64 percent: Percentage of consumers who plan to use a mobile wallet in 2020 (Accenture)

 

  • 61 percent: Percentage of consumers who welcome open access to their finances so they can see checking account or credit card balances when paying with any mobile app (Accenture)

 

  • 25 percent: Percentage of U.S. retailers that currently have terminals that accept mobile payments. Apple Pay and PayPal are retailers’ two most widely accepted digital payment methods, though Android Pay is gaining in popularity with retailers and can be expected to overtake Masterpass by Mastercard within the next 12 months. (Statista)

 

  • 83 percent: Percentage of healthcare providers who plan to meet the rise in patient consumerism with more retail-like technology solutions and practices (Black Book)

 

  • 62 percent: Percentage of medical bills that were paid online in the first half of 2017 (Black Book)

 

  • 95 percent: Percentage of consumers who would pay online if a healthcare provider’s website had the option (Black Book)

 

  • 71 percent: Percentage of patients who say that mobile pay and billing alerts have improved their actual satisfaction with a healthcare provider (Black Book)

 

Mobile payments are likely to be critical to the future of healthcare benefits, as deductibles and out-of-pocket maximum costs rise, resulting in millions of dollars of unpaid medical bills. Through the WEX Health Cloud platform, members can streamline the funding, purchasing and payment processes required for informed healthcare financial decision making.

Want more? Read why consumers are turning to their smartphones for health information.

Why the Latest Healthcare Reform Defeat Shouldn’t Be a Distraction from Your Health Benefits Strategy

Why The Latest Healthcare Reform Defeat Shouldn’t Be a Distraction from Your Health Benefits Strategy

10/09/2017

by Chris Byrd

 

Now that the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill has failed, Congress will move on. We can expect it to concentrate instead on some pressing items on the calendar—things like agreeing on a continuing resolution to keep the government operating, raising the debt ceiling and reauthorizing programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And of course, as we all know, congressional leadership is poised to take on the very complex issue of tax reform. In other words, after a six-month-long healthcare debate during which politicians expended a considerable amount of political and emotional energy, healthcare is largely off the table for now, barring the (unlikely) inclusion of healthcare in a tax reform package.

 

This means the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. While it is far from a perfect framework (and both sides of the aisle agree on that), the employer market has adjusted to it. The repeal and replace efforts of the past six months led some employers to place their benefit strategies on hold pending an understanding of what a new world order might look like. My advice: Don’t put off making decisions about your benefits strategy any longer. The deliberation and debate over a wholesale overhaul of the present system is finished. There will be some targeted efforts, most notably to stabilize the individual market, but the employer market framework is known—more of the same.

 

If there is disappointment among supporters of consumer-directed healthcare approaches, it is over the missed opportunity to pass reforms that would have expanded HSAs, restored the OTC tax benefit, eliminated the cap on FSA contributions and further delayed the implementation of the Cadillac Tax. In the absence of a broad reform bill, these supporters will continue to advocate for these provisions in separate pieces of legislation. But much of that effort may have to wait until after the end of the year, given that the attention of the tax-writing committees is fully focused on tax reform. The industry’s biggest priority continues to be to repeal, reform or delay the Cadillac Tax.

 

The market forces that are causing employers to continue to move toward consumer-directed, higher-deductible healthcare plans haven’t changed, and the trend of consumers having more skin in the game is inexorable because it works. Even without the legislative changes that would have been favorable to consumers with tax-advantaged accounts had the broad healthcare reform bills passed, these accounts will remain a very effective and attractive tool for both employers and consumers. Consumers should be making use of them, as they provide a significant benefit by helping them save money and become wise stewards of their healthcare dollars. Consumer-directed health approaches—and the tools and products that have sprung up around them—continue to be an effective part of the answer to the challenges presented by healthcare’s ever-increasing costs. As Congress gathers its energy for another round of discussion and debate—this time around tax reform—employers and consumers should not be distracted by what’s happening in Washington as it relates to their health benefits strategy.

 


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.  


Spread the Word about Money-Saving Benefits and Services

Spread the Word about Money-Saving Benefits and Services

Getting geared up for open enrollment? Organizations everywhere are reviewing benefit offerings and preparing their process for this annual fall ritual. Employers are seeking to balance their healthcare spend with providing the support their diverse workforce needs.

A key strategy that remains popular with organizations is offering consumer directed health plans (CDHP). These plans are often paired with a health savings account or a flexible spending account. The percentage of employees enrolling in HDHPs has been increasing steadily over the past five years. Driving the trend, is the savings employees see with the average monthly paycheck deduction for individual-only coverage in a HDHP at about $90, compared to $140 for a PPO plan.
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Healthcare Benefits in 2017: What Employers Have to Say

It’s been a tumultuous few years for the healthcare benefits community, and as the Trump administration takes office, the changes are just beginning. To address this, the Healthcare Trends Institute recently completed a survey of benefits professionals from across the United States to learn more about the trends, preparations and expectations for the coming year.

Trends in Healthcare Benefits: 2017 Healthcare Benefits Benchmark Study

The 2017 Healthcare Benefits Benchmark Study was completed by over 250 human resources executives, benefit specialists and other benefit decision makers from organizations ranging in employee size from less than 50 to over 2,500. Below, we will share some of the key insights and what they mean for employer groups in 2017.

Among the notable considerations for employers heading into 2017:

Employers Buying into Healthcare Consumerism

Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, employers have been encouraging their employees to take more control of their own healthcare decisions by offering a high-deductible health plan (HDHP).

The Move to HDHP

High deductible health plans are plans that have minimum deductibles of $1,300 for individuals and $2,600 for families. One of the main selling points of an HDHP is that it combats rapid increases to monthly premiums for employers and employees, as shown by the relatively flat Medical Cost Trend over the past 4 years. The increasing popularity of these plans grew as a result of rising healthcare costs and the passing of the ACA, and pose benefits for both employers and employees:

  • For employees, high deductible health plans were designed to help them to lower premiums, focus on preventive care, shop around for affordable care, use emergency rooms only for emergencies, and ultimately take more control of their healthcare decisions.
  • For employers, HDHPs helped to combat rising premiums while shielding them from the Cadillac Tax, which was initially set to begin in 2018.

With all of this in mind, 2016 marked a milestone for healthcare consumerism, with the amount of organizations offering HDHPs jumping from 28% four years ago to 39% in last year’s survey to 53% in this year’s survey.

Pairing HDHP with Consumer-Oriented Accounts (HSA, HRA, FSA)

With this rise in HDHPs came an increase in the number of employees being enrolled in a Health Savings Account, Healthcare Reimbursement Arrangement, or Flexible Spending Account, as this year’s survey found that 51.5% of respondents’ employees are enrolled in one or more of these plans/arrangements.

By offering one or more of these arrangements, employers are demonstrating that they are committed to helping employees afford out-of-pocket healthcare expenses if and when they arise, making people-first decisions rather than money-first ones.

Notably, however, the move to HDHP does require effective communication, as there is a great deal of misunderstanding among consumers about why these plans help them and how they can use them effectively. Learn more about common misunderstandings in 5 Benefits Problems Employees Face and how to address concerns in How to Talk About Healthcare Consumerism with Your Employees.

Focusing on the Advantages

Organizations are relying heavily on their benefits programs to recruit, retain, and engage employees. Even if many employers have moved away from the traditional forms of healthcare benefits that were prevalent in the industry decades ago, the benefits offerings of today still can represent a significant investment in happier, healthier, and more engaged employees. Additionally, a well-defined benefits strategy can play a major role in improving company reputation as a leader and one that cares about its employees. In BenefitsPro’s Analysis of our whitepaper:

Respondents were asked to rank on a scale of 1 to 10 how strongly they agree with the statement “the quality of a benefits package impacts the reputation of my company,” with 10 being “strongly agree.” Not surprisingly, given that such packages are looked upon as recruiting tools, 67 percent put the statement at 7 or higher, with nearly a quarter choosing “strongly agree.”

Learn More: Download the Entire 2017 Healthcare Benefits Trends Benchmark Study

The entire 2017 Healthcare Benefits Trends whitepaper takes a much deeper look into the trends to look out for in 2017, including plans and insights from other employer groups. The national survey went to over 250 human resources executives, benefit specialists and other benefit decision makers from organizations ranging in employee size from less than 50 to over 2,500. Click Here to Download.