Accounts

HSA Headlines: Are you happy with your benefits options?

The ever-rising cost of health care has been a common topic on this blog, but new research shows that we may have been underestimating what your benefits goals should be. For this week's HSA Headlines, we'll examine this and what workers are saying about what needs to change for the better in the employee benefits world.

One-third of employers say 'expanding benefit options' is the biggest healthcare priority - Riia O'Donnell, HR Dive

Benefits packages can make or break a potential hire's decision to take a job, and more than ever, employers are taking cues from their existing employees to improve their offerings. And having a lot of health care options on offer is a key priority for employers as we head for open enrollment season this fall.

According to a new Willis Towers Watson survey, 31% of employers say their top health care priority for 2019 is to 'expand benefit options.'

Another big priority for employers in 2019 is helping employees better navigate those expanded benefits choices. 74% reported that they will implement new measures to help workers navigate their benefits over the next three years, while more than 50% are prioritizing training to educate staff on their benefits.

Electing benefits can still be an arduous experience, but it sounds like employers have gotten the message and will provide a welcome helping hand in the near future!

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Accounts

HSA Headlines: Are HSA users spending more than they should?

The idea behind the creation of HSAs was simple: give people more options in choosing where to spend their health care dollars, and that would in turn create a smarter consumer who shops around and searches for the best deal. But best laid plans and real world realities often diverge in curious ways, and HSAs are no exception.

This week, we'll take a look at some interesting data relating to HSA account holder spending, as well as a new merger in the HSA industry that could change the landscape of these accounts.

HSAs Provide a Sweet Tax Break, But Some May Increase Healthcare Spending - Howard Gleckman, Forbes

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) is always a great source of compelling information about consumer attitudes and behaviors in benefit use, and it turns out a significant segment of the HSA population is using their windfall of HSA savings to overspend. This is peculiar, as some studies have shown that they under-spend their accounts when having to cover a larger deductible, but this EBRI study shows the opposite side of the equation.

It turns out, the EBRI research found that individuals who manage to save up large HSA balances are more likely to use them. And we're talking big expenses here: visiting hospital emergency rooms, primary care doctors and specialists, physical therapy, imaging tests and more. In so many words, instead of reducing spending, some HSA users were treating their large HSA balances like free money.

Studies like these show that user behavior can be a tricky thing, and while consumer education can show people the way, having a big reserve to cover health expenses can be a tempting proposition.

HealthEquity to Acquire WageWorks Accelerating Market-Wide Transition to HSAs - Globe Newswire

Finally for this week, a major piece of news that is expected to shake up the HSA market for the foreseeable future. HealthEquity, one of the largest, non-bank HSA providers in the country, has agreed to purchase WageWorks, another leading HSA provider and administrator of other consumer-directed health care benefits, such as flexible spending accounts (FSAs), commuter benefits and more.

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year after regulatory review and other closing conditions. But this is a huge development for the larger consumer-directed health care industry that gives HealthEquity a huge slice of the ever-growing HSA population. We'll be watching this one closely as it develops over the course of late 2019.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Retirement

HSA Headlines - 6/21/19 - Has HSA growth leveled out?

Over the past decade, one of the biggest stories in the health & benefits world was the runaway growth of HSAs, which by the end of 2018 exceeded 25 million accounts (Devenir). But has the HSA trend finally tailed off?

In this week's edition of HSA Headlines, we'll take a look at new enrollment numbers for HSAs that could give benefit managers pause, as well as overlooked aspects of HSAs that, if communicated effectively, could bolster enrollment in the future.

What's happening with HSA growth? - Emily Payne, BenefitsPro

In recent years, 3% year-over-year growth was par for the course with HSA enrollment numbers, but according to new research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), the percentage of individuals with an HDHP (with no HSA) dropped for the first time since 2015, while those with a CDHP (with an HSA) grew at just under 3%.

That doesn't seem...that bad? While admittedly the industry is taking stock of these new changes, the same research did point out some promising signs for HSAs. 17% of HSA users opened their accounts in the last year, while another 26% did so in the past 1-2 years. That groundswell of new users should bode well for the HSAs future and could help us get back to the days of 3% growth!

Some Plan Sponsors May Need a Nudge About HSA Rollovers - Investment News

To be clear, we're not talking about how HSA funds roll over at the end of each plan year. Even though that's a pretty great feature! This HSA rollover refers to when you leave a job, and you take your HSA with you and continue to contribute to it throughout your career.

But it turns out that employers need to do more to make employees aware of this fact. A new survey conducted by the Plan Sponsor Council of America found that only 19% of employees ask new employees whether they'd like to move their HSA from their previous job into their new company's plan. That's a huge problem.

Portability of HSAs is one of their best features, but if employees are unaware of that fact, they could potentially have a handful of scattered HSAs in different accounts at their previous employers, as opposed to a single account where all of their health savings is kept. This is a key piece of information that needs to be more effectively communicated at all levels of the HSA life cycle, especially open enrollment communications.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Retirement

HSA Headlines - 6/14/19 - How much has Gen-Z saved for retirement so far?

They may be the newest generation in the American workforce, but Gen-Z is already building a reputation for being hard workers and savvy savers when it comes to planning out their future.

For this week's HSA Headlines, we take a closer look at how well this generation is faring in the retirement savings game, as well as some interesting trends about HSA spending that is giving benefit managers pause as they put together their open enrollment materials this fall.

Here's how much money Americans in their 20s have saved in their 401(k)s - Kathleen Elkins, CNBC

Last week, we revisited the age-old question of whether to enroll in an HSA or a 401(k), and this week we're taking a closer look at the savings trends on these top retirement accounts. CNBC obtained data from Fidelity Investments, the country's largest retirement plan provider, to break out how each generation's savings trends.

First off, average balance. Even though they have just started working, Gen-Z has put away an impressive amount of money. The average 401(k) balance of those 20-29 is $11,800, while those 30-39 is $42,400. Perhaps most surprising is how much Gen-Z is saving out of the gate. The average savings rate for each paycheck is 7%, which is not that far off from those in their 30s who average a 7.8% contribution.

Whether it's an HSA or a 401(k), it sounds like Gen-Z has gotten the message and are doing what it takes to plan ahead for retirement.

Employees Not Using HSAs to Invest for Retirement is a Problem - Stephen Miller, SHRM

We talk a lot in this column about the retirement potential of HSAs, but according to a series of studies, communication efforts from benefit managers and brokers are still not being heeded to a large extent.

An EBRI study from early 2019 found that while more than half see their HSAs as long-term savings vehicles, only 7% are actually investing their funds in mutual funds, stocks and bonds. But a new side effect of large balances is also emerging - some HSA users see their large balances as "free money for health care," and as such may use their HSA funds first to spend down their yearly deductibles, or pursue medical treatments that are unnecessary.

The fact is, HSAs have only been around since 2003, and every study that is released provides new windows into consumer behavior and spending trends. We're always learning something new and there's a lot of trial and error still out there on the plan provider and participant level. So start doing it right and invest those funds, people!

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Retirement

HSA Headlines - 6/7/19 - 401(k) or HSA? The retirement confusion continues

HSAs can cover thousands of eligible medical products and services, but most talk about these accounts turns to their retirement potential. After all, being able to cover healthcare expenses in the here and now while carrying over that savings for retirement is the key benefit of an HSA, but there are still plenty of retirement savings options out there that can give working professionals pause when electing benefits.

With the recent news of expanded HSA contribution limits, this week we're playing the long game with a bigger focus on retirement and making the right choice with the options available to working professionals.

Should you fund your HSA at the expense of your 401(k)? - Clark D. Randall, MarketWatch

Getting off on the right foot in retirement planning starts from the moment that most professionals enter the workforce, and while 401(k)s have held sway for decades, HSAs are giving some pause when electing benefits.

In a recent MarketWatch piece, financial planner Clark D. Randall outlined the most common retirement plan options (401(k)s, traditional/Roth IRAs) and advises that a combination of 401(k) savings AND HSA funds is the best path to a safe retirement.

Randall makes the great point that while 401(k)s are great savings vehicles, distributing those funds is another matter entirely as they are taxed at 15%. As opposed to seeing a 401(k) as a total retirement savings solution, Randall suggests funding both - using the HSA now to cover immediate health expenses, while saving the remainder for retirement health expenses.

In this way, account holders won't have to pay excessive on taxes on qualified 401(k) distributions at retirement, which hurts even more if this is a medical expense, as an HSA withdrawal for a qualified medical expense would be tax-free. And you still get to keep those sweet HSA tax deductions each year. These decisions are completely contingent on your financial situation, but this is one path forward that could be beneficial for some professionals.

A definitive guide to retirement health care costs - Meredith C. Carroll, The Week

While we're on the subject of retirement, The Week released a very handy guide to retirement healthcare expenses, and what individuals and families should expect when it's time to leave the working world.

The oft-cited number from Fidelity Investments 2019 analysis is that a couple retiring at age 65 should set aside at least $280,000 for retirement health expenses. That's certainly a lot to prepare for.

But the fact is, there is no single figure that will perfectly match your health needs, so creating a broad strategy that covers the essentials is a good step forward. If you are well into your career, this guide could be helpful to allow you to re-assess how much you've saved, and figure out some unique ways to save on healthcare expenditures before you've reached "Medicare age."

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

HSA Headlines - 5/31/19 - New 2020 HSA contribution limits and the rise of health care wearables

There are few events on the calendar that get us as excited as the release of new HSA contribution limits, but this week marks the one time each year that the IRS adjusts contribution amounts for individuals and families to adjust to yearly inflation. Talk about better than Christmas morning!

Aside from this banner news, this week we'll also cover some interesting trends on health care outcomes and wearables, the latter of which have been subject of eligibility debates for years. Without further ado, here are the headlines!

2020 HSA limits rise modestly, IRS says - Stephen Miller, SHRM

Drumroll please! For those approaching open enrollment this fall or thinking of starting an HSA in 2020, limits are rising. For 2020, the HSA contribution limit for individual health plan enrollment will be $3,550, and those enrolled as two person or family can contribute up to $7,100. So a $50 increase for individual enrollment, $100 increase for family.

Additionally, some other metrics for HSA users to make note of. First, catch-up contributions which are possible at/after age 55 will still be $1,000 for 2020, and there has also been an increase in HDHP deductible limits.

Minimum deductibles will be $1,400 (individual, up $50 from 2019) and $2,800 (families, up $100 from 2019), while maximum out-of-pocket amounts increased to $6,900 (self-only, up $150 from 2019) and $13,800 (families, up $300 from 2019).

The healthcare benefits of combining wearables with AI - Moni Miyashita and Michael Brady, Harvard Business Review

We covered the possibility of fitness trackers becoming HSA-eligible in fall 2018, but because products/services that are eligible have to be able to treat a medical condition, fitness trackers were still seen as "general health" products and outside the bounds of becoming eligible.

But devices like these do more than just track steps, they can provide a great window into a person's health through diagnostic abilities like blood pressure monitors, heart rate and more. And in the United Kingdom, their National Health Service is using them to better improve long-term health outcomes.

The NHS instituted a pilot program for multiple hospitals in southeastern England called their Hospital at Home Team (HAHT). Patients who are eligible are sent home with a Wi-Fi-enabled arm band and charger, and patients securely transmit health data using a cellular network. This allows the HAHT team to check in regularly with patients about their ongoing treatment or symptoms, and be alerted in the case of major emergencies.

The program thus far has reported incredible results. The need for home visits has dropped more than 20%, as well as reducing hospital readmission and emergency room visit rates. Perhaps the most impressive metric is long-term adherence for treatment. The industry average is about half of patients will stick with their plans, the NHS program reported 96% of users stuck with their treatments.

While this may not be the same as making fitness trackers HSA-eligible, it shows the amazing development of health-centric wearables and their potential future as necessary aids in medical treatment.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



Retirement

HSA Headlines - 5/17/19 - health care savings and smart shopping is more important than ever

How much do you have saved for your health care needs in the future? That's the question on the minds of millions of Americans whether they're HSA holders or not.

In last week's column, we examined the efforts employers are taking on their own to support their employees' health and financial well-being through wellness programs, but in this week's edition of HSA Headlines, we'll look at the obstacles seniors still have to overcome in their HSA management and how the overall lines between patients and consumers have begun to blur.

HSA Savings for Seniors Who Want to Work Longer - Judy Faust Hartnett, PlanSponsor

The retirement potential of an HSA is among the most compelling reasons to enroll in one of these accounts, with the tax penalty for non-medical expenses waived once you reach Medicare eligibility at age 65. But the catch is, you can't contribute to an HSA if you're enrolled in Medicare, and with 25.2% of Americans 65 and older still participating in the labor force (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), that's a lot of people who are missing out on prime earning years!

Luckily, a road map to a solution is already available. A bill which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2018 called H.R. 6311: "Increasing Access to Lower Premium Plans and Expanding Health Savings Accounts Act of 2018" would have allowed participants enrolled in Medicare Part A and a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP) to continue making HSA contributions after Medicare enrollment.

However, with a new Congress seated in January, this bill would need to be reintroduced again. Health care is a somewhat contentious issue, and a presidential election is just around the corner, so it's not as likely a new version of this bill will be introduced soon. But with a previous precedent in place, it will be much easier to revive and make this HSA when the time is right. As always, it's not easy to predict what could happen, so stay tuned!

$10 Billion In Annual U.S. DTC Healthcare Advertising Indicates Merging Of Patient And Consumer - Joshua Cohen, Forbes

For millions of HSA uses, shopping around for the best price for health products and services is a fact of life. But in a perfect world, medical care should be about the best possible treatment method as discussed with your doctor and your own personal preferences without having to worry about cost - you can be a patient, not a shopper. But the current health care system is not exactly sympathetic to that mindset, but given the ever-rising price of health care, cost considerations are a fact of life in America's health care system.

A new study from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice examined how marketing of prescription drugs, disease awareness, health services, and laboratory tests in the United States changed from 1997 through 2016, and one of the most compelling pieces of data is that $10 billion is spent annually on direct-to-consumer health care advertising. That number is impressive enough on its own, but the study authors concluded that all of this spending could be a mixed bag for consumers.

For one, much of this direct-to-consumer spending is directed toward doctors, not patients. Flashy marketing and incentives could convince doctors to go with higher-priced options, while patients are left to cover the cost.

On the patient side, while this advertising can be helpful for those who may not be aware of certain treatment options for some conditions, these ads could also convince patients to go for unnecessary tests and consultations. Ultimately, studies like this show that there is a lot of noise out there in the greater health care market, and it's up to benefits and health care professionals alike to show patients the best way forward for their overall well-being.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Living Well

HSA Headlines - 5/10/19 - Financial wellness programs already realizing big results

Wellness programs are among the hottest benefits trends in the country right now, so much so that we opened up a whole new ecommerce experience for wellness spending. But, while health-centric wellness gets most of the attention, financial wellness programs are doing their part in preparing working professionals for retirement and for making smarter decisions in the here and now.

Last week we covered short-term fixes that could lead to long-term HSA success, this week we're playing the long game with financial wellness programs and other interesting developments in the health & wellness space.

Long-term use of financial wellness programs drives retirement plan success: study - Michael S. Fischer, ThinkAdvisor

Financial wellness programs are fairly new in the world of employee benefits, so having long-term data about their efficacy is particularly enticing to benefits wonks like us. A new report from the workplace wellness provider, Financial Finesse, found that those who regularly participated in financial wellness activities weren't just better prepared for retirement, but they improved in financial literacy across all of their metrics.

The multi-year study ran from 2013 to 2018 and focused on 2,458 employees who regularly engaged with their employer's personal financial wellness program. Most notably, only 21% of participants believed they were prepared for retirement in 2013, which grew to 57% in 2018. Finally, average contributions to an HSA increased by 41%, to $1,319 from $934.

We've often covered in this column that the best way to take advantage of an HSA is to have your financial ducks in a row to have the freedom to take full advantage of long-term HSA benefits. This study certainly bears that out and is a helpful reminder that the best long-term HSA strategy is one that is tied to your overall financial wellness.

Consumers want more online payment options for health care - Michael Brohan, Digital Commerce 360

This is a headline that piqued our interest this week, as FSA and HSA users are typically more in tune with how much health care services and products cost, manage their benefits directly online and can make payments with their benefits cards. But for those who are not enrolled in these accounts, it can be a bit more difficult to get a full picture of your health care spending options.

A new study from the medical payment services company InstaMed found that 81% of respondents want providers to begin offering cost estimator tools, while another 71% want online billing statements from hospitals and providers (only 17% were offered this).

And it isn't just online bill paying - medical providers are also lagging behind in the ability to pay with mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, which only 29% accepted in 2018.

The mobile revolution has already come to health care, but payment processing has been slow to catch up and it will be interesting to see how the greater industry will step up to fill the void.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Living Well

HSA Headlines - 5/3/19 - Short-term fixes for long-term HSA success

The long-term retirement potential of HSAs receives a lot of attention in the benefits world. While HSAs are a model for long-term retirement stability, too few companies are providing a helping hand for employees to start making smart decisions with their HSAs in the here and now.

This week, we'll examine a new approach to long-term finances that starts with short-term stability, and the impact that online reviews are having on how medical professionals find new patients. Without further ado, here's what should be on the radar for HSA users this week.

Short-term financial stability is key for enabling longer-term benefits: report - Marlene Satter, BenefitsPro

HSAs are fantastic financial vehicles for your long-term financial security, but when you factor in that you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) to contribute to one, that could be a significant financial commitment for those who have sizable health care expenses.

A new report from the Aspen Institute details just how pivotal having short-term financial security can be in taking advantage of long-term benefits, and could provide an instructive lesson for those who are considering an HSA.

The report detailed four strategies for individuals to grow assets and stay engaged in the actions they're taking to protect their financial futures: routinely positive cash flow, liquid savings, access to high-quality credit and strong social networks.

In short, having one or more of these positive savings strategies can dramatically improve your long-term savings potential, and allow you to be better positioned to navigate deductible expenses and regular yearly contributions that come with HSAs.

70% of patients call online reviews crucial in selecting healthcare providers - Christopher Cheney, Health Leaders Media

Shopping around for the best price for health care is one of the key benefits of an HSA, but when it comes to picking a new doctor, America seems to be in full agreement regardless of health coverage: go online first.

A new survey conducted by PatientPop of 800 patients found that more than 70% will research a doctor's online reviews before making an appointment, which illustrates just how important these rankings are for medical professionals. And nearly 70% considered an online reputation to be "somewhat or very important," while those practices who responded directly to negative criticisms doubled patient satisfaction.

And finally, the largest group of online researchers was the 30-44 cohort (85.8%), of which 65% sought out individual reviews of medical professionals and practices. Millennials lead the way again! While it has been slower than other industries, surveys like this show the degree with which health care is becoming increasingly more digital, and information that was traditionally word of mouth is crowd-sourced and readily available.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Basics

HSA Headlines - 4/26/19 - Early 401(k) withdrawals could cause issues for millennial health care

Are we really discussing millennials again? Well, it might be a well-covered topic, but millennials are the generation that launched a thousand think pieces. This is even true for workplace benefits, since millennials are now the largest group in the U.S. workforce, making them a big focal point for benefits managers.

This week, we'll take a closer look at some sobering news about millennials in regards to their 401(k) savings, and efforts being made on the workplace wellness level that could help this and younger generations ward off future health issues. Let's dive into this week's HSA Headlines!

Yikes: 1 in 4 millennials raiding their 401(k) savings early to pay down debt - Sarah Min, CBS News

Choosing between a 401(k) and an HSA to save for retirement is a common question for those entering the workforce for the first time, but with so many graduates leaving college with thousands in student loan debt, this throws an entirely new variable into the equation. According to a new report from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, 1 in 4 millennials are dipping into their 401(k) early to cover their soaring debt costs, and costing themselves even more money in the future in tax penalties (10% on withdrawals AND additional money taxed as income).

HSAs aren't much help for student debt either. HSA withdrawals for non-medical expenses could come with a 20% tax penalty, so workers taking out money to cover debt will be hit with an even larger tax bill. The same report found that 60% of today's young adults define "financial success" as being debt-free, as opposed to just 19% who equate success with being "rich."

More employers tying financial incentives to wellness participation - Katie Kuehner-Hebert, BenefitsPro

Wellness programs are becoming a fixture in today's business benefits space. (We even created a new site for them!) Large and mid-sized employers are expected to spend $3.6 million on average on their wellness programs in 2019. (Fidelity Investments/National Business Group on Health).

Wellness programs can take on many forms, from financial wellness to physical/mental health to community involvement, and many companies will provide financial incentives to employees to encourage their participation. In most cases, the report found that the two top objectives of these programs are to manage health care costs (82%) and improve employee productivity/reduce absenteeism (59%).

This could provide great news for health savings account (HSA) users; 34% of employers surveyed tie their financial incentives to funding an employee's health care account, such as an HSA.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Retirement

HSA Headlines - 4/19/19 - Gen Z leading the way in retirement savings

Millennials may be the largest demographic in today's workforce and the subject of many a think piece, but the benefits world needs to stand up and take notice of the next trailblazing generation, Generation Z.

While many are still fresh out of undergraduate programs and wading into the job market, their early spending habits show a generation that is ready to take full advantage of the benefits offered to them. This week, let's take a closer look at the generation born from 1996-2010 and what their retirement prospects could look like.

Gen Z Americans already saving to buy homes before they turn 30 - Lananh Nguyen, BenefitsPro

I may be a millennial, but this is great news for the younger generation. A recent survey by Bank of America Corp. revealed where the savings priorities are for Gen Z, and it turns out that they are practicing responsible savings from a very young age. An impressive 59% of 18-23 year olds surveyed hope to buy a house in the next five years, and more than half have already started saving for one.

To show that millennial priorities are still slightly out of whack, only 40% of millennials surveyed are actively planning on buying a home in the next five years. If Gen Z is already making the right decisions for their long-term future, they could make up the next wave of HSA enrollees in the future who are actively planning for retirement and the health care expenses that comes with it!

Healthcare: The barrier to retirement employers are helping to tear down - Kayla Webster, Employee Benefit News

Gen Z's surging interest in saving for the future bodes well for them in this current health care moment, where a couple retiring at age 65 should expect to spend up to $285,000 on healthcare expenses alone in retirement. As a result, employers are diversifying their retirement options to extend a helping hand to employees, and HSAs are emerging as a key strategy to provide assistance.

According to Fidelity Investments, employers are trying to get ahead of the ever-growing price of health care by offering HSAs to their employees as a way to defray costs. In 2017 alone, Fidelity reported that 112 new employers began offering health savings accounts to employees and that the company saw a 50% increase in the number of new HSA account openings from 2017.

With the ability to save for retirement, cover immediate health expenses AND over-the-counter medical products, HSAs are a no-brainer for employees looking to jump start their health and long-term earnings potential.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Retirement

HSA Headlines - 4/12/19 - The reality of rising health care and retirement costs

Long-term savings and retirement are topics that come up quite regularly in this column - with good reason. HSAs offer a tax-free method of covering qualified health expenses and can provide a welcome rainy day fund for medical and non-medical expenses once you reach Medicare eligibility at 65.

But what if that's not enough? This week's column will tackle the ever-growing estimate of what a couple nearing retirement will have to save just to cover health care expenses, along with new legislative approaches that could change how we look at retirement savings.

Health care costs for retirees climb to $285,000 - Sarah O'Brien, CNBC

We've been running this column for about a year, and when I started, the conventional wisdom was that $250,000-$275,000 was a safe figure to cover expected health care expenses in retirement for a couple, but we have blown far past that.

According to this year's analysis by Fidelity Investments, a male-female couple in good health retiring at age 65 in 2019 can expect to spend $285,000 on health care expenses in retirement.

This analysis, which includes factors such as premiums, copays, cost-sharing expenses, and prescription drug costs, is just what's covered by Medicare. Dental, basic vision, over-the-counter medicines, long-term care and other expenses will have to be factored into health care budgeting for retirement as well.

HSAs can help to cover everything we just mentioned, so this further highlights that a full-court press approach to retirement planning and saving is necessary in today's health care environment.

Senators propose requiring employers to contribute to workers savings' accounts - Lee Barney, PlanSponsor

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) have introduced the Savings for the Future Act, a new approach to assisting workers in saving for retirement and building their savings.

The bill calls for employers to contribute 50 cents for every hour an employee works, which factors out to about $20 per week or $1,048 per year. The bill would affect companies with 10 or more employees to direct a contribution to a retirement account like a 401(k), with businesses of all sizes receiving tax credits for these contributions.

The fact is, 40% of American adults would have trouble covering a $400 emergency expense, so while this plan may seem a bit unorthodox on the surface, it could make a major difference in the lives of average Americans if it were to pass. This also seems like the perfect place for employer-sponsored HSA contributions to enter the conversation, so we'll keep a close eye on this bill's progress in the future!

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Eligibility

HSA Headlines - 4/2/19 - HSA-eligible feminine care products? OTC medicine without an Rx? It could happen!

Ever since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in 2010, to purchase an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine like Advil, Benadryl or Claritin with FSA or HSA dollars, this would require a prescription from a doctor. If that sounds ridiculous, it's because it is, but there may be relief on the horizon in the form of a new bipartisan bill introduced last week called the Restoring Access to Medication Act. It's a big week of headlines so let's dive in!

House Introduces Bill to Bolster Consumer Health Savings - Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA)

Big news out of Washington over the past week as a new iteration of the Restoring Access to Medication Act"was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Various iterations of this bill have been introduced in the past, but this one has a major chance of passing with bipartisan support from Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), and Darin LaHood (R-Ill.).

Two major developments would come out of this bill if it was signed into law. First, the requirement to obtain prescriptions for OTC medicines with FSA/HSA funds would disappear. Secondly, and the real newsmaker here, is feminine care products like tampons would be considered medical items for the first time, and therefore eligible for purchase with FSA/HSA funds.

Allowing the purchase of feminine care products with tax-free funds is not a new idea, having been included in various pieces of HSA legislation in the past. But in this current iteration, there seems to be something here to appeal to both sides of the political spectrum, so we'll be following this piece of legislation closely in the future!

Over-the-counter drugs have a billion-dollar impact on the bottom line - Marlene Satter, BenefitsPro

To illustrate just how important lifting the OTC Rx provision would be for millions of FSA and HSA users, this week a new study from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and the market research firm IRI found that over-the-counter medications save the American healthcare system as much as $146 billion per year in preventable health expenses.

So if you broke that out even further, for every dollar spent on over-the-counter medicines, a further $7.20 is saved by the healthcare system. Just from our own experience in working with FSA and HSA users, having to obtain a prescription for a pain reliever or decongestant is not only an additional financial burden in copayments, missed work and other obligations, it could also delay treatment of specific conditions and prolong them. So consider us firmly in the pro-OTC Rx repeal camp!

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https://www.chpa.org/FSA/HSA2019.aspx