Posts

How a price transparency tool can help maximize the value of an HSA!

Health savings accounts (HSAs) provide employees enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), a tax-advantaged way to save and pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Combining a price transparency solution with an HSA account allows employees to decrease their healthcare costs by 30 to 40 percent today and maximize the value of an HSA for future medical expenses. Financial experts estimate that the average couple retiring today will need $285,000 to cover healthcare costs during retirement. An HSA combined with a price transparency solution is a powerful employee benefit that improves their lives both today and tomorrow.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reported that for 2017, the average individual HSA contribution was $2,843, and distribution was $1,725, leaving a year-end balance of $1,118 for future medical expenses.

Our analysts estimate that 30 to 40 percent of healthcare costs are shoppable. Giving employees a tool to compare price and quality before going to the doctor empowers them to make more informed care decisions, reduces healthcare costs, and allows HSA contributions to go even further.

For example, if the “average” HSA individual contributor above shopped and saved 30 percent on healthcare costs, they’d have an extra $518 in their account over someone who didn’t shop in one year alone. With tax-free growth on the HSA investment, those savings could be worth an extra $8,247 in ten years — not a bad ROI for a few minutes of comparison shopping before making an appointment.

Using a price transparency tool to shop for healthcare can reduce yearly HSA distributions and let the savings add up!

HSA Overview

Employees enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP), also called an HSA Eligible Plan, are eligible* to open an HSA account. If the name “high deductible” scares you or your employees, it shouldn’t, as these accounts are a great way to lower healthcare costs.

HSAs offer a tax-advantaged way to pay for qualified medical expenses (e.g., deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and some other costs, but not premiums). With an HDHP and HSA, employees may be able to lower their overall healthcare costs in the form of premium and out-of-pocket expense savings.

Both employers and employees can fund an HSA using pre-tax dollars. For 2019, the minimum plan deductible needed for an HDHP/HSA Eligible Plan is $1,350 for individuals and $2,700 for a family. For 2020, the minimum deductible increases to $1,400 for individuals and $2,800 for a family.

For 2019, employees/employers can contribute up to $3,500 for individual coverage and $7,000 for family coverage into their HSA. In 2020, the IRS limit increases to $3,550 for individual coverage and $7,100 for family coverage. People 55 or older are eligible to make an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution per year into their HSAs.  

HSAs roll over unspent funds to the following year and are “portable” if/when an employee changes employers. HSA contributions may earn interest or be invested (in mutual funds, etc.) where earnings and withdrawals are non-taxable when used for “qualified” expenses. There’s no tax on contributions, no tax on earnings, and no tax on qualified withdrawals…that’s a triple tax advantage!!!

Why price transparency is needed

Seeking out high-quality, lower-cost providers when non-emergent care is needed lowers overall healthcare costs and allows HSA dollars to go further. But unfortunately, healthcare prices are almost never posted anywhere, making it nearly impossible for consumers to compare provider prices and quality before making an appointment.

Massive pricing variations in healthcare are common. Secret deals between providers and insurance carriers have created a healthcare marketplace where the cost of even a routine medical procedure can vary 1,000% across providers in the same market. 

Need a lipid panel (cholesterol test)? That might cost $15 at one provider and $240 at another just a half-mile away.  Total knee arthroplasty? Would you rather pay $2,268, or $18,477? Heading to the hospital for a few stitches after accidentally testing that fillet knife on a finger? Turn left at the light, and urgent care will charge you $132 to stitch you up, or turn right and pay $1,850 at the hospital. Ouch! Without prior knowledge or price transparency, consumers remain unaware of the cost of care and can waste thousands of HSA dollars a year by overpaying for care.

With a price transparency solution like MyMedicalShopper, comparing and selecting a high-quality provider for over 10,000 unique tests and procedures is as convenient and easy as a Google search. Consumers are accustomed to shopping for everything on their phone, so why should healthcare be any different? Having real-time price and quality information helps consumers make more informed care decisions, reduce their out-of-pocket expenses, and budget for future medical expenses.  

How price transparency tools work

  • Your physician wants you to get an MRI as a result of nagging pain in your arm from playing too much dodgeball.
  • While still in the examining room, you pull up your price transparency tool on your smartphone and search for local providers.
  • In under a minute, you find multiple imaging centers in a 10-mile radius, including one that’s $1,457 less expensive than the one in the hospital your doctor recommended. 
  • You share this information with your doctor and decide that the one a mile away is just as good as the hospital, so your doctor sends you to the imaging center.
  • Congratulations, you just saved $1,457 in your HSA for a future expense and still received excellent care.

By making more informed decisions and not overpaying for healthcare, HSA users have significantly more tax-free savings for future medical expenses, including retirement.

Without price transparency, a single decision on where to go for care could waste thousands of dollars and erase a significant amount of an HSA’s balance. Give your employees a benefit that they’ll appreciate today and thank you for tomorrow.  

*Check IRS eligibility guidelines

Benefits that Benefit All

As a relatively new entrant into the workforce, I feel confident expressing that there are opportunities for improvement when it comes to benefit plans and the consideration and impact on current and future generations – specifically, health plans. (And of course, I feel confident expressing myself. As a millennial, I’ve been told that I’m allowed to express myself anytime, anywhere.)

Everyone is bound to require medical care and services. And yet, the majority of health plans offered to me don’t actually provide benefit to me. They punish me. It doesn’t add up – the extra premium I pay doesn’t benefit me, but rather benefits those individuals in the plan who are ill and need to get healthy. I don’t resent those individuals. I just want it to be fair. I just want everyone to be a winner ;).

I’ve been working in the healthcare industry for a short period of time, but it’s clear that the impending doom of year over year price increases ad infinitum has us on the path to a breaking point. I know, with a pretty high degree of confidence, that unless a radical change occurs within employer-sponsored health insurance, millennials and Gen Z are going to be drowning in future healthcare costs without a financial life preserver. Rising healthcare costs and price increases continue to outpace wage and GDP growth, leaving us with less money to spend today and invest for tomorrow. We can’t let the healthcare costs rob of us our future.

82% of employees perceive medical costs as their biggest challenge today and in retirement. And I can guarantee that this number will not decrease. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and we can change it. We must take full advantage of the tools and mechanisms available to adequately prepare millennials and empower boomer employees for this future cost burden. It’s time that employers take us into account when deciding health plan designs.

Which brings me to my next point. And I hope HR leaders are still reading. Financial wellness is universally essential. It is a critical consideration for boomers as they march towards retirement. It is and will continue to be a crucial consideration for millennials as we grow in our careers. It’ll not only impact the companies we decide to join (or leave), but also our ability to be productive, to save for the future, and to live happy, healthy lives.

Besides compensation and 401k, healthcare costs, and how those are handled, is a huge consideration for employees and their financial wellness. And, to put it simply, we need HSAs. HSAs are the perfect weapon to manage medical costs today, save for future expenses and promote financial wellness. And they’re portable and triple-tax advantaged! Tell that to an uninformed employee and they’ll just agree that it sounds great. Now that’s a great employee benefit!

We all at least need the option to choose an HSA.  And we need to shout this until we’re heard. During enrollment feedback. During employee benefits surveys. Because we want convenience. Because we want control. Because we want simplicity.

The traditional healthcare behemoth that sucks massive premiums from our paychecks for the care we never use needs to be upended.  We can’t hesitate to shop around for medical care to maximize value. Or, question authority regarding physicians and cost. We can’t be beholden to PCPs or specialists we’ve been referred to just because they’re in the same “network.” Do we need to go to the hospital when a MinuteClinic will do?

Together, boomers and millennials have an opportunity to take control of the healthcare market. To no longer be victimized by carriers or providers. But we can’t wait. HR leaders now have to equip employees with the tools and education to confidently go forth into the healthcare market and make the best decision possible. That starts with an HSA and outlining the real power of that account.

So, let’s improve health plans for everyone. Let’s provide everyone who wants an HSA, with an HSA. Let’s educate everyone on the power of an HSA. We can no longer cower in fear when we hear the term High-Deductible Health Plan. That’s not a bad thing when you have an HSA and a healthcare system navigation platform! Boomer and millennial employees can collaborate to turn the tide of the rising healthcare costs wave.

By Matthew McCormick