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How to encourage enrollment in your HSA program

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in Human Resources

Wal-Mart doubled its annual health-savings account (HSA) contribution for employees who enroll in high-deductible health plans for 2007. The move is in response to critics who claim low-paid employees can’t afford high health insurance deductibles or contributions to health savings accounts.

The move might be one for other organizations to consider as they try to enroll employees into HSAs to achieve better health cost savings—for both employer and employee.

An assessment of HSAs by, a comparison-shopping site for health care, reveals a significant gap between the number of people enrolled in high-deductible health plans and the number who have an HSA.

The report also showed that funds on deposit in the average HSA are roughly half of what is required to cover the typical health plan deductible for these consumers.

One reason: Some organizations are not contributing—or barely contributing —to their employees’ HSAs.

No money to chip in? Here are four low-cost ways to encourage your organization’s employees to enroll in the HSA:

1. Explain the program. Make sure employees understand the value of opening an HSA to offset high deductibles and uncovered medical expenses. People are unlikely to enroll in a new health option unless they fully understand it. HSAs are different from traditional health plans and are saddled with some complicated rules.

2. Communicate frequently. Don’t wait until a month before open enrollment to start spreading the word. Talk about HSAs at every employee meeting all year.

3. Make it personal. Employees are more interested in how an HSA will help them than in how it will help avert a national health care crisis. Give personal examples in simple language. One big firm created a video that featured its employees talking about how the HSA helps them pay medical bills.

4. Dump the default plan. If you include HSAs on your menu of options but then default employees to their existing plan choice, they’re unlikely to add something new. Force employees to make fresh choices during each enrollment period. Consider replacing a traditional option with the HSA.  

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