HSA holders don’t understand accounts

HSA holders don’t understand accounts

confused-resize-380x300Sure, as evidenced by the growing numbers, consumers love their health savings accounts. Problem is, they just don’t really know much about them.

A new survey from Alegeus Technologies says most consumers, and even account holders specifically, do not fully understand account-based health plans, including HSAs, flexible savings accounts and health reimbursement accounts.

Only 30 percent of HSA holders passed a basic HSA proficiency quiz — which included nine true/false questions such as “I can have an FSA and an HSA at the same time,” “Contributions that I make to an HSA are tax-free,” “I can contribute to an HSA regardless of which health plan type I’m enrolled in” and “My employer owns my HSA.”

Meanwhile, only 50 percent of FSA holders passed a FSA proficiency quiz. The health care and benefit payment firm polled more than 1,000 consumers and 500 employer health benefit decision-makers.

Research continues to show the growing popularity for HSAs. This week America’s Health Insurance Plans said that health plans that include health savings accounts continue to rise in popularity — experiencing double-digit growth over last year.

Read: HSA enrollment posts double-digit growth

But industry insiders say those numbers would be far greater with more understanding and awareness of the accounts. Particularly for HSAs, researchers said, lack of understanding of the full account value proposition may be hindering adoption — as more than 40 percent still view HSAs as spending accounts, “exhibiting a lack of understanding of the ability to save beyond the plan year or invest HSA funds.”

The survey results “point to a significant consumer education gap and a need for enhanced decision-support resources to help consumers better manage their ever-growing responsibility for health care purchase and funding,” according to the news release from Alegeus.

The survey also found that employers are falling short on benefits education, as 65 percent communicate about health benefit enrollment only during open the enrollment period, while nearly 60 percent rely only on plan summary documents and enrollment forms to communicate benefit plan/account options. Still, employers aren’t realizing this: In their assessment of the quality of various aspects of employer benefit communications (including clarity, depth, format, personalization and frequency), consumer ratings were consistently 20 percent lower than employer ratings.

Roughly 70 percent of consumers said they’d ideally like a wider array of plan options than is offered by their employer right now, including the ability to choose their own HSA custodian. About half said they want to be able to choose their HSA bank versus having their employer choose for them, and 41 percent want their HSA managed by the same bank that manages their personal accounts.

“As consumers continue to assume greater responsibility for their health care purchase and funding, there is tremendous opportunity to help streamline and simplify the consumer health care experience,” Alegeus CEO Steve Auerbach said.