The health savings and spending consumer journey

Health care is one of life’s basic necessities, but it’s not the easiest to budget or understand. Ongoing changes in the industry however, have led a growing number of consumers to take greater control of their health care dollars, often through options such as health savings accounts (HSAs), health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs). See the September 15th post by Zahoor Elahi for more information on how this is affecting employers.

Of these, HSAs are becoming the most prevalent. Health plans are seeing a growing number of members choose high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and the HSAs that come with them. For you and I [members], it’s the best of both worlds — in addition to having a comprehensive health insurance plan, members can save tax-deferred funds for qualified medical expenses such as doctor visits and prescriptions drugs and the money grows tax-free. Another benefit is whether members change health plans or jobs, their HSA goes with them.

It’s important that members realize their HSAs are more than just insurance vehicles — they can actually play an important role in their near and long-term savings goals, including financial planning for retirement. Through research, Optum identified that people go through 5 stages when saving and paying for health care. The challenge for health plans is to help members understand where they are on that journey and help them navigate from opening an HSA to managing and using it wisely.

Tips for health plans

Health plans can do the following to help their members get the most from their HSAs:

  • Understand what stage your members are at in the journey.
  • Make sure you provide educational materials on HDHPs and HSAs.
  • Ensure your benefits managers are knowledgeable about HSAs.
  • Provide a call center or a representative for members to call with questions.
  • Explain and discuss HSAs at member benefits meetings.
  • Seek member feedback on how well they are understanding and using their HSAs
  • Understand your population metrics — how many members have HSAs; what are their balances; are they investing their HSA dollars?

Enrolling members in an HSA is just the first step. It’s important for health plans to be actively involved in guiding their members so they better understand their HSA options and optimize their value. Members will find that being prepared to pay for their health care will empower them to make better health care decisions and plan for their future.

To learn more about consumers and the HSA journey, download our white paper, “The Health Savings and Spending Consumer Journey.”

About the author

Barb Page, Sr. Director Marketing, Optum

Barb PBarb Pageage is the Senior Director of Marketing for Optum Financial Services. She is responsible for marketing strategy for Optum Bank products including commercial lending, health savings and spending accounts. Barb also leads marketing for several other Optum solutions including stop loss, electronic payment systems and digital solutions. Barb has over 25 years of financial services and health care marketing and business experience. Barb is a licensed RN and has worked in adult intensive care and neonatal intensive care units. She has a Bachelor of Individualized Studies in Journalism and Marketing and a Master of Business Communications from the University of St. Thomas and recently graduated from Bethel University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Public Health Nurse certification and a Master of Science in Nursing and Health Care Leadership.

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