4 Ways to Help Your Employees Master Their HDHPs in 2019

Helen Calvin Benefits Communication

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to give HDHP veterans and newbies at your company some help understanding—and squeezing more value out of—their plans. Here are four simple steps your HR team can take over the next few months to put your employees on the right track.

For even more HDHP communication tips, download our free eBook, The ALEX Guide to Epic HDHP & HSA Communications.

#1. Post a jargon-free FAQ page on your intranet

When: Once the new plan year begins

Keep your FAQ at ten questions (and answers!), maximum. Otherwise, your employees can get overwhelmed by their health plans and by the FAQs.

When writing up the answers, pretend you’re talking directly to an employee who doesn’t know any of the insurance jargon you do. Keep it simple, straightforward, and free of insurance gobbledegook.

Make sure your questions reflect the concerns of different employee types: Millennials who haven’t had insurance before, older employees behind on retirement, employees about to have a new kid, etc. To get a clear sense of these concerns, invite a diverse group of 5-7 employees out for coffee and ask them.

Some sample questions for your FAQ might be:
• Is an HSA different from an FSA?
• Do I have to open an HSA?
• How much money should I put in my HSA?
• This plan looks way more expensive than my PPO. What gives?

#2. Send a reminder email about setting up an HSA and/or choosing a monthly contribution amount

When: The first month of the new plan year

When your employees don’t take advantage of their HSA not only do they miss out on low-hanging tax savings, your company misses out on payroll tax savings, too.

So right at the start of the new year, send an email that explains why it’s important to set up a contribution amount right away. Here’s what that might look like:

Hi everybody,

Right now is the perfect time to choose (or adjust) how much money you’ll contribute to your HSA every two weeks.

A few reasons why it’s really important to do this:

• You can’t use any HSA funds until your account is fully set up and you’ve chosen how much you’re going to contribute.

• If you pay for any health care at all next year, and don’t contribute to your HSA, you’re doing it wrong. Why? You don’t pay taxes on any of the money you put into your HSA and then spend on eligible health care…which puts real money back in your pocket. (Last year, the average HSA user contributed about $70 every two weeks and saved $267 in taxes as a result!)

• There’s no “use it or lose it” rule! Any money you put into your HSA this year is yours to use for medical expenses the rest of your life. And once you turn 65, you can use it for anything at all. A Mediterranean cruise. A life-size Build-a-Bear. You name it!

If you need a refresher on how your HDHP and HSA work, check out this handy FAQ page. And if you have further questions, let me know!

#3. Give your HDHP newbies tips on navigating their first visit to the doctor and pharmacy

When: The week insurance cards are mailed out

When employees who are used to PPO-style co-pays realize they have to pay more upfront with their HDHP, they can get…cranky. And start to doubt their plan choice—or worse, you as their employer choice.

So set expectations ahead of time to avoid employee sticker shock and to prevent you from getting an earful. Specifically, remind employees which types of visits are considered preventative care (and likely free) and which aren’t. Then explain their options when it comes to paying for—and getting reimbursed for—the visit.

#4. Share tips on saving money on care with all your HDHP users

When: Any time before the end of the first quarter of the year

Specifically, you might recommend that your employees:
• Check prescription prices on a site like Goodrx.com before they buy their meds
• Visit an urgent care center instead of the ER, if they’re sick or hurt but it’s not life-threatening
• Use a telemedicine tool (if your company offers one) to get free online medical advice without having to leave their Kleenex-riddled beds

Sure, following this communication schedule requires extra elbow grease. But if you defuse your employees’ stress and confusion early, they’ll feel more prepared to take control of their healthcare and get the most out of their plans. And as a bonus, you and your team get to spend less time answering panicked questions the rest of the year.

This article was originally published, in a slightly different form, in Employee Benefit News.