Category:
Industry News

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.

Continue reading

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.

HDHPs: Good for More than Physical Health

HDHPs: Good for More than Physical Health

05/17/2018

by Chad Wilkins, executive vice president of Webster Bank and president of HSA Bank

 

At HSA Bank, a division of Webster Bank, N.A., our goal is to empower consumers to make the most of their healthcare dollars. We work to inspire consumers to own their health by simplifying the health account experience and utilizing cutting-edge technology and innovation to help them make sure they’re on their way to a healthy financial future.

 

To that end, we recently released the HSA Bank Health & Wealth IndexSM for 2018, a new report that measures consumers’ financial and physical health. More than 1,000 U.S. adults were surveyed about their health plan enrollment status, health practices, ability to pay for health-related expenses, and confidence in their own health and wealth.

 

The results showed that while consumers are taking a more proactive approach to their physical health, that’s not necessarily the case with their financial health. In fact, 41 percent never save money for future healthcare expenses, and 35 percent never consider cost when selecting health services.

 

The good news is that consumers enrolled in high deductible health plans (HDHP) scored in the optimally engaged category. This was largely due to these consumers being more likely to frequently save speci­fically for future healthcare expenses and consider cost when selecting health services.

Consumer-directed health plans can play a role in keeping consumers both physically and financially healthy.

 

Are you enrolled in an HDHP? Do you have a health savings account (HSA)? What is your health and wealth index score? Find out here.

 


Chad Wilkins HSA Bank

Chad Wilkins

Executive vice president of Webster Bank and president of HSA Bank

Chad Wilkins serves as an executive vice president of Webster Bank and president of HSA Bank where he is responsible for leading the organization and its people toward sustainable growth well into the future. Chad joined HSA Bank in 2014, bringing with him more than 25 years of experience in the banking and health insurance industries.

 

Read the full HSA Bank Health & Wealth Index here.

Why Employers Should Care About Their Employees’ Financial Stability

Why Employers Should Care About Their Employees’ Financial Stability

05/10/2018

by Jeff Bakke

 

Last week at WEX Health Partner Conference 2018, I had the opportunity to take part in a very important conversation with the industry’s leading benefits administrators, health plan providers, financial institutions and employers—and it wasn’t about technology. It was about the state of financial health in our nation, why it matters to us and all the tools we have available today to empower employers as they take on a bigger role in helping their employees achieve financial stability.

 

In our new WEX Health Clear Insights report on Easing Workers’ Concerns about the Rising Cost of Healthcare, we found that two-thirds of those surveyed are somewhat or very worried about unexpected out-of-pocket costs associated with their current healthcare needs or illnesses. Nearly half of those people are also worried about the cost of healthcare in retirement. And a quarter of respondents said they forgo healthcare services all the time or often due to out-of-pocket expenses.

 

To help us better understand the financial stressors faced by U.S. workers, we asked Sarah Gordon, chief strategy officer with the Center for Financial Services Innovation, to join our conversation. Sarah revealed a few key findings from their 2017 study on employee financial health.

  • One in three employees reports that issues with personal finances have been a distraction at work.
  • Workers with high financial stress are two times as likely to use sick time when not ill.

 

During his opening keynote at Partner Conference, Jeff Young, WEX’s president of Health, played a video featuring Jan Pynappel, vice president of consumer directed health at Fifth Third Bank, who shared many ways employers find value in the WEX Health Cloud Employer Dashboard. Jan reported that employers like to offer employees tools like the HSA Healthcare Savings Goal Calculator because they want their employees to be successful when they retire in their later years. It’s assuring to them to see that their employees are saving toward their established goals.

 

Other employers may feel that delving into workers’ financial matters is too personal. However, we found in our Clear Insights survey results that employees want and are open to more help from their employers, especially in the areas of determining the amount of money to set aside each month to cover deductibles and to put into their accounts overall.

 

Register for our upcoming 30-minute webinar on Tuesday, June 12, at 1 p.m. Central to learn more about our 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights report findings and 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.

Register Here

 


Jeff Bakke WEX Health

Jeff Bakke

Chief Strategy Officer at WEX Health

At WEX Health, Jeff oversees corporate strategy, distribution strategy, and strategic partnerships. A specialist at identifying and capturing business opportunities, Jeff has built and led innovative high-performance teams, developed new products and markets, and developed large strategic clients with exceptional recurring revenue results. He has been instrumental in WEX Health’s focus on the emerging exchange market as well as a continued emphasis on HSA market opportunities.

Jeff’s career includes working at SafeNet, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Medica Health Plans, Allianz and American Express. He earned a degree in electrical engineering from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Wrap-up Post: 2018 WEX Health Partner Conference and Partner Excellence Awards

Wrap-up Post: 2018 WEX Health Partner Conference and Partner Excellence Awards

05/09/2018

by Jeff Young

 

Even though WEX Health’s Partner Conference 2018 and Partner Excellence Awards are behind us, I’m still buzzing from the energy and ideas we generated last week during the more than 60 sessions and countless hallway conversations held between partners.

 

If you made it to Scottsdale this year, I can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your busy schedule to be at our event and for making the most out of the learning opportunities we served up via keynotes, breakout sessions, spotlight sessions, partner panels, our innovation demo stage and our hands-on lab. I look forward to seeing what all this networking and idea-swapping yields in the coming months. (And before we know it, it will be time for next year’s conference in another famously sunny spot—Miami.)

 

I also want to again congratulate the winners of this year’s Partner Excellence Awards. Recipients were recognized for reaching significant milestones across several areas, including growth, evangelism, leadership, innovation and customer service as well as overall outstanding partner successes. The winners span our partner base, with large to mid-sized health plans, banks, payroll providers, private exchanges and leading third-party administrators representing a breadth of leadership, knowledge and expertise across industries.

 

The WEX Health Partner Excellence Award categories and winners are:

 

Growth Excellence

  • Consolidated Admin Services, LLC
  • HealthPartners
  • Optum
  • UPMC Health Plan

 

Evangelist

  • Group Dynamic, Inc.
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Medica

 

Innovator

  • BPAS, Inc.
  • PNC
  • Sentinel Benefits & Financial Group

 

Market Maker

  • BenefitWallet
  • HSA Bank, a Division of Webster Bank
  • ThrivePass

 

Sales Excellence

  • Administrative Solutions, Inc. (ASi)
  • Chard Snyder Benefit Solutions
  • Pro-Flex Administrators, LLC

 

Service Excellence

  • Associated Bank
  • Benefit Strategies, LLC

 

Solution Visionary

  • Alerus
  • Benefitfocus, Inc.
  • Paychex

 

Leadership

  • Rob Hayes, BASIC

 

New Partner of the Year

  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch

 

Card Innovation Partner of the Year

  • HealthSCOPE Benefits

 

Billing Partner of the Year

  • Ameriflex

 

CDH Platform Partner of the Year

  • Infinisource Benefit Services

 

Partner of the Year

  • Discovery Benefits, Inc.

 

During this year’s conference, we also released our first WEX Health Clear Insights Report, with guidance on how employers can play an even greater part in enabling their employees to feel confident about managing their healthcare expenses. To gather these insights, we asked approximately 1,100 American workers questions about their employer-sponsored health insurance, decision-making processes, healthcare spending habits and challenges, and preferred tools for learning about plans, among other topics.

Download the 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights Report today.

 


Jeff Young

President, Health | WEX Inc.

Jeff joined WEX in 2014 when the company acquired Evolution1 to expand its healthcare payments business. He spearheads the company’s efforts to simplify the business of consumer-driven healthcare and is responsible for WEX’s growing healthcare business, with a focus on industry-leading technology and a strong partner network. Before joining Evolution 1 as CEO and chairman in 2008, Jeff was the vice president of business applications at Microsoft Corporation in the U.S., and prior to that, he held senior leadership positions at Great Plains Software, helping lead Great Plains through its successful IPO and eventual sale to Microsoft for more than $1 billion. A graduate of the University of Jamestown (N.D.), Jeff serves on the boards of Bell Bank in Fargo and West Fargo (N.D.) Baseball.

What to Expect at Partner Conference Next Week

04/23/2018

by Jeff Young

 

Around the WEX Health offices, we’ve got all hands on deck to prepare for next week, when our go-to industry event Partner Conference 2018 will be held in Scottsdale, Arizona, from April 30 – May 2. Once again, we anticipate record-breaking attendance from our WEX Health Partners.

 

As our Partners, you help us connect WEX Health to more than 300,000 employers and more than 25 million consumers across the U.S. and Canada. Because you work tirelessly with us to reduce costs and simplify the business of healthcare, we’re committed to providing a superior value proposition for you in multiple ways. One of these is through Partner Conference, which gives our Partners the opportunity to come together for an intense agenda of learning, networking and celebrating. Here are some of the good things to look forward to this year:

 

A motivational keynote message will be delivered by two-time New York Times best-selling author Sally Hogshead, the creator of Fascination Advantage®, the first communication assessment that measures how others perceive you.

 

I’ll also be speaking at the conference, as will these keynote speakers:

  • Jeff Bakke, chief strategy officer, WEX Health
  • Chris Byrd, executive vice president and corporate development officer, WEX Health
  • Matt Dallahan, senior vice president, WEX Health
  • Sarah Gordon, chief strategy officer, Center for Financial Services Innovation
  • Brad Holmes, managing vice president, Gartner

 

This year’s conference will also include concurrent breakout sessions, innovation demo stage presentations, spotlight sessions, hands-on labs and partner panels. Additionally, there will be numerous networking opportunities, a sponsor expo and the annual Partner Awards dinner and program.

 

And as Partners, you will get a sneak peek of the exciting new features and functionality in the upcoming WEX Health Cloud June 2018 release, which will include user interface refreshes and mobile payments for COBRA.

 

You will also hear about upcoming WEX Health 2018 Marketing & Sales Bootcamps planned for June 12-13 in Buffalo, New York, and July 17-18 in Boston, Massachusetts.

 

Find the full agenda here.

 

We look forward to hosting you, and encourage you to share your Partner Conference 2018 experience in real time via Twitter #WEXPC2018.


Jeff Young

President, Health | WEX Inc.

Jeff joined WEX in 2014 when the company acquired Evolution1 to expand its healthcare payments business. He spearheads the company’s efforts to simplify the business of consumer-driven healthcare and is responsible for WEX’s growing healthcare business, with a focus on industry-leading technology and a strong partner network. Before joining Evolution 1 as CEO and chairman in 2008, Jeff was the vice president of business applications at Microsoft Corporation in the U.S., and prior to that, he held senior leadership positions at Great Plains Software, helping lead Great Plains through its successful IPO and eventual sale to Microsoft for more than $1 billion. A graduate of the University of Jamestown (N.D.), Jeff serves on the boards of Bell Bank in Fargo and West Fargo (N.D.) Baseball.

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.  


The IRS Has Lowered the HSA Family Contribution for 2018

New: The IRS Has Lowered the HSA Family Contribution for 2018

03/07/2018

 

On Monday, March 5th the IRS said in a service bulletin that it has recalculated the maximum amount that a family can contribute to a health savings account (HSA) in calendar year 2018, reducing it by $50 to $6,850. It had previously announced the 2018 figure would be increased to $6,900.

 

This change was made, effective immediately, to reflect the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017. The law ties HSA limits and other employee benefits such as health flexible spending accounts (FSA), commuter plans and adoption assistance benefits to the chained consumer price index (chained CPI), reflecting a change in the way it previously calculated cost-of-living increases.

 

The HSA contribution limit change only applies to family-level coverage, leaving the individual contribution limit for HSAs in 2018 at $3,450. FSA limits were also not affected.

 

2018 Contribution and Out-of-Pocket Limits
for Health Savings Accounts and High-Deductible Health Plans

  2018
HSA contribution limit (employer + employee) Self-only: $3,450
Family: $6,850*
HSA catch-up contributions (age 55 or older)* $1,000
HDHP minimum deductibles Self-only: $1,350
Family: $2,700
HDHP maximum out-of-pocket amounts (deductibles, co-payments and other amounts, but not premiums) Self-only: $6,650
Family: $13,300

*IRS announced change on Monday, March 5, to the family HSA contribution limit.

 

Ensure your employees aren’t taxed for excess contributions

Any contribution to a family HSA account over $6,850 in 2018 will be considered an excess contribution, and will be hit by a 6 percent excise tax. To ensure that none of your employees are taxed in this way, you need to be able to identify those who have already contributed the maximum amount into a family account for 2018 (the excess contribution will need to be refunded). There is no grandfathering in for HSA accounts that were fully funded at $6,900 prior to the March 5, 2018 IRS notice.

 

There are two options for those that have already fully funded their family HSA account in 2018 at the previously announced 2018 amount of $6,900:

  • Leave the full amount ($6,900) in the HSA account and include the $50 as other income and pay the penalty
  • Take a distribution for HSA excess contribution for the $50, leaving the HSA balance at the new IRS family maximum of $6,850

 

You should also evaluate your employees’ payroll elections to determine if their contribution amounts need to be adjusted so that they don’t end up exceeding the annual limit.

In its recent bulletin, the IRS additionally defined a high-deductible health plan as a plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,650 for self-only coverage or $13,300 for family coverage. This definition has not changed since its previous announcement.

 

Stay up to date on the latest HSA news by following WEX Health on Twitter @wexhealthinc. And learn more about HSAs with our blog post that tells you everything you need to know about these tax-advantaged accounts.

What You Need to Know About Data Security and Wearable Devices in the Workplace

What You Need to Know About Data Security and Wearable Devices in the Workplace

02/02/2018

 

Now that wearables and smart technology devices are frequently used to incentivize and measure participation in workplace wellness programs, activity trackers have emerged as an important—and sometimes debated—link between employee and employer.

 

Concerns about personal data and activity trackers made the news (again) this week, with reports that U.S. soldiers may have inadvertently revealed the locations of remote military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria by publicly sharing their jogging routes via the Strava fitness app.

 

And during a series of meetings last year between Apple and Aetna, Aetna employees’ questions about the safety of the data on their employer-provided Apple Watches ended up dominating the discussion—and the news media’s coverage of that discussion. By way of background, Aetna partnered with Apple in 2016 to provide select large employers and individual customers with Apple Watches, as well as offering to reimburse all 50,000 of its own employees for the watches. Apple has stressed that health information is only shared with user consent, and Aetna is continuing to gather feedback from its employees about whether or not the watches have had an impact on their nutrition and exercise habits.

 

Of the Apple/Aetna meetings, CNBC reported, “One of the biggest concerns with companies like Apple and Fitbit collecting health information, like steps and heart rate, is that it could get into the wrong hands. These fears are amplified as technology companies strike deals with self-insured employers and health plans.”

 

So what are employers and health insurers doing with the data they collect from activity trackers? The large majority of those employers are doing nothing with it and are providing employees and/or their customers with wearable devices only to encourage health and wellness in hopes of increased productivity and engagement and decreased healthcare costs.

 

Though it’s now common across industries, the trend of doling out activity trackers to employees and customers was popularized by healthcare companies. Back in 2014, tech startup Oscar made headlines when it partnered with Misfit, a wearable device company, to link its customers’ biometric information straight to their health insurance, presenting Amazon gift cards to those who met their fitness goals.

 

Since 2016, UnitedHealthcare has awarded employees who meet fitness goals (as measured by their wearable devices) with monetary prizes and credits that can be applied to a health savings account or health reimbursement account. The company’s vice president of emerging products recently reported that its program, which it calls “Motion F.I.T.”, has yielded “very impressive” engagement and activity rates. And, as part of its Wellvolution program, Blue Shield of California leverages the Walkadoo app, which keeps track of activity and allows employee participants to earn awards such as Fitbits and Visa gift cards. It has since also invited some of its plan participants to engage with the app in exchange for awards. OptimaHealth, Cigna, Humana and other insurers additionally offer their members discounts and rewards tied to activity trackers.

 

Even as activity trackers have provided impetus for some corporate employees to prioritize their health, the practice of incentivizing with them has, in some ways, heightened the tension between personalized medicine and private information. Workplace wellness programs that are offered by group health plans to group health plan participants only are covered by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security rules, while wellness programs offered to all employees, however, are likely not covered by HIPAA.

 

Just last week we reported on a new ruling from a federal district court in Washington, D.C., in which the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been ordered to alter its rules on employer-sponsored wellness programs that financially penalize employees who refuse to provide personal medical and genetic information. As wearable healthcare technology grows more sophisticated, we suspect that the number of questions it raises will continue to grow, as will the opportunities it creates.

 

For more on the role of smartphones and apps in personal health management, read our blog about trends in remote health monitoring.