Help employees connect health and finances during COVID-19


Sending employees home to work. Keeping the lines of communication open. Preparing and ensuring a safe return to the office. As an employer, you are well aware of the endless adjustments you’re juggling as you adapt to the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.

Your employees look to you for guidance. Now is the time to support and encourage their well-being — physically, mentally and financially. In order to do so, Optum Bank has identified five emerging trends that you can use to help workers connect their health and finances.  Read the paper here on how using HSAs can help during a pandemic to connect health and finances.

Utilize health account dollars for qualified medical, dental and vision expenses
While spending dropped during “stay at home” mandates, we noticed an increase in paying for qualified medical, dental and vision expenses with health accounts. It’s an opportune time to remind employees that they can use these dollars to cover costs associated with minor medical procedures. Remember, major health plans and many self-insured plans have waived member cost sharing for COVID-19 testing at approved locations. The waiver includes copays, coinsurance and deductibles. For plans that don’t waive these costs, account holders can use their funds to pay for testing.

Invest HSA dollars
Since the beginning of the year, we have seen an increase in employees investing their health savings account (HSA) dollars. This may mean that people who are healthy or putting off procedures are continuing to save. Remind employees that investing their health dollars will help them prepare for unexpected health costs. They may even want to consider depositing their federal stimulus money on a tax-advantage basis into their HSA (up to the IRS established limit). This will help them to invest and potentially grow their account.

It’s also a good time to remind employees that HSAs are portable and have no “use it or lose it” rule, so dollars can be accessed at any time. Saving and being prepared can help employees lower stress and anxiety associated with paying for health care. As a result, they will feel enabled to make better health decisions now and in the future.

Capitalize on new regulations
The IRS released several new regulations to extend deadlines for filing for HSA expenses, tax submission, form filings and more. New regulations passed in 2020 allow certain over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medications to be paid for using HSA dollars without a doctor’s prescription. OTC examples include pain medication, allergy medication, nasal rinses, feminine care products and more.

Also, the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes other products as a qualified medical expense (QME). This regulation applies retroactively to purchases beginning January 1, 2020. Your employees can use Optum Bank’s QME tool to find out what products and services are covered.

Expand remote health visits
A growing number of providers offer video conferencing health visits to protect patients and health care workers. A qualifying high deductible health plan (HDHP) paired with an HSA may provide pre-deductible coverage for telehealth and other remote care services. If this option is available, remind your teams that the provision will last until December 31, 2021. Note that the benefit plan year must begin prior to this date.

Grow health care dollars
As the pandemic continues, it’s vital to encourage employees to continue saving for their health care. They can build their health and finance support systems via the Optum Bank website and mobile app resources and engage with our Health Finance Journey™. Each stage is an important step toward health and financial well-being as we navigate through these challenging times together.

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