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Employers Looking for ‘What’s Next’ Beyond HDHPs

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Organizations are continuing to utilize high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) in their benefits offerings. However, according to research by Alight Solutions, HDHPs have lost momentum in 2019.

Alight’s survey found that 123 of 145 organizations (representing 2.8 million employees and their families) are offering HDHPs in 2019, which was down from the 132 organizations that offered it the prior year.

Karen Frost, senior vice president, health strategy and solutions leader at Alight, said there are a variety of reasons for the dip, including employers seeking different plans. 

“What we are finding is employers are starting to look for what’s next beyond high-deductible plans,” Frost said. “We see them more aggressively looking for other alternatives that provide the next innovative answer.”

Some of the organizations are offering ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations) or other value-based coverage options, Frost said, while others continue to offer traditional PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations) and HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations).

While the number of companies offering HDHPs fell, enrollment increased. Alight’s study found that 40% of eligible employees enrolled in an HDHP, which was up from 38% in 2018. Additionally, 81% of people who enrolled in an HDHP contributed to an HSA, which is up from 77% in 2017.

Not surprisingly, Alight’s research revealed that enrollment into an HDHP was higher when employers offered all or some of their employees an employer contribution for their HSA accounts.

“Employers have done a lot of hard work when it comes to health savings accounts in helping employees understand how important they are in rounding out the health insurance they receive in a high-deductible plan,” Frost said. “This year we saw an increase in employee contributions to HSAs. We see that as a big success for employers in getting employees to understand how important those HSAs are.” 

Not only was there an increase in the number of employees contributing to HSAs, but there was also an increase in the contributions themselves. Alight’s data found that the average employee contribution was $2,517 in 2018, up from $2,251 the year prior. Frost said employers play a large role in those improvements.

“What we find is the No. 1 thing that encourages people to both enroll in an HSA and continue contributing is a suggestion to do just that,” she said.

Despite a slight decline, Frost said she anticipates high-deductible plans with health savings accounts to continue to play an important role in the health market. But, the research points to employers evolving and finding health-plan solutions that fit their workforce best, which doesn’t always include an HDHP.

A trend that continues, however, are employers offering more well-being programs that cater to individual needs such as maternity benefits, diabetes or weight loss.

“We see a lot of attention from employers in offering those specialized solutions,” Frost said. “We see them offering those and providing a combination high-touch and high-tech solution to meet those employee needs.”  

About the Author

Brett Christie is a staff writer at WorldatWork.


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