Summer 2022 Insight Employer Newsletter
Why a health savings account (HSA) can be an appealing benefit to younger employees
By James Kress, Manager-Account Management, Large Group Sales, Independent Health
With employee resignations and job openings currently at levels not seen for more than 20 years, employers are struggling to find ways to attract and retain high-skilled workers. In order to survive and thrive during the Great Resignation, it has become more imperative than ever for companies and businesses to provide a wide range of employee benefits.
Over the past several years, there has been a dramatic shift in the workplace from baby boomers (age 58-76) to millennials (age 26-41). As of the third quarter of 2021, 66.9 percent of baby boomers are now retired, according to the Pew Research Center. More than 1 in 3 American workers (35 percent) are millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. It is estimated that number will grow to as much as 75 percent by 2025. Millennials are the most likely generation to switch jobs, too. Therefore, employers have had to reconsider what types of benefits appeal to today’s workforce.
When it comes to health benefits, millennials aren’t interested in more expensive traditional plans. Since they typically have fewer health care expenses, millennials prefer a plan that comes with lower premiums/payroll deductions rather than one with lower out-of-pocket expenses. However, they also understand that their medical expenditures will eventually increase as they get married, start a family and grow older.
For employers, offering a lower-costing health savings account (HSA)-qualified high deductible health plan with a funded HSA has become an important part of their overall benefit strategy and recruitment and retention efforts. That’s because HSAs provide their employees with greater flexibility and control over their health care spending, along with substantial tax advantages and investment opportunities that allow them to accumulate wealth in the longer term.
HSAs and employer contributions
An HSA is a tax-advantaged savings account owned by an individual that can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses for the owner and their dependents. Any unused dollars carry over year-to-year, regardless of whether the account owner changes health plans, retires or leaves their job. Plus, the account holder can invest unused dollars in mutual funds for retirement. These benefits will appeal to your entire workforce, especially millennials. In fact, a study conducted by Benefitfocus found that 76 percent of millennials eligible for an HSA have enrolled in one.
An HSA may be funded by pre-tax contributions from the employee, from the employer or both. Employer contributions are a great way to increase use and satisfaction of an HSA-qualified health plan. The Internal Revenue Service allows employers to fund part or all of the annual HSA contribution maximums, which is $3,650 (single coverage) and $7,300 (family coverage) for 2022. As with 401Ks, employers are also allowed to match employee contributions to encourage their own investment in their future, if the combined amounts don’t exceed the IRS annual maximums.
If you offer both a 401K and an HSA, your employees can grow both accounts together and potentially set themselves up for a more comfortable retirement. They also have until the tax filing deadline (typically April 15) to make catch-up contributions to their HSA for the previous year. This gives them more time to maximize the triple-tax benefit of an HSA (contributions are tax-free, withdrawals are tax-free, and interest grows tax-free).
When you consider the premiums for most HSA-qualified plans are lower than traditional health plans, and you also factor in the 7.65 percent FICA tax savings that accompany employer contributions, funding an HSA for your employees may be easier than you think. As your workforce sees their HSA accounts grow over time, so too will their appreciation of your benefit package.
If you are interested in learning more about the many benefits of an HSA, Independent Health is here to help. Since 2019, we have partnered with HealthEquity, the leading administrator of HSAs in the nation. Through this collaboration, Independent Health is the only health plan in Western New York that offers an integrated HSA product with complete automated enrollment and claims payment solutions as well as no monthly maintenance fees.
Visit our HSA section to learn how we’re making it easy for employers and their employees to manage, use and maximize an HSA.
Disclaimer: HSAs are never taxed at a federal income tax level when used appropriately for qualified medical expenses. Also, most states recognize HSA funds as tax-free with very few exceptions. Independent Health does not provide legal, tax, financial or medical advice. Therefore, please consult a tax advisor regarding your state’s specific rules.
Offering ways your employees can save during these challenging economic times
With essential goods like food and transportation costs at all-time highs, many households are struggling to make ends meet these days. Since everyone is looking for ways to stretch their dollar, Independent Health want to remind you that we offer a variety of benefits, tools and resources to help our members save on their health and wellness costs.
Here are just four examples of ways your employees may be able to save some money with us:
- Wellness Discounts – There are more than 550 community partners and local businesses that currently offer exclusive discounts for Independent Health members on a wide range of goods and health and wellness services. Some discounts offer a savings of 30 percent or more. Here is a sample of what your employees can save on:
- Fitness-related activities at Buffalo RiverWorks, including water sports, zipline, ropes course and climbing wall
- Reddy Bikeshare rentals at 90 stations throughout Buffalo and Niagara Falls
- Kayak and bike rentals at Outer Harbor Buffalo
- An annual membership to the Buffalo Museum of Science, which you can use to check out Explore YOU, a health science studio presented by Independent Health
- Receive 15 percent off purchases at the official Buffalo Bills store (excludes jerseys, already discounted/marked down items and special edition/make products).
- Fitness equipment, bike tune-ups and outdoor recreational activities
- Weight loss programs, healthy prepared meals, vitamins and herbs
- Fitness center memberships, acupuncture and massage therapy
- Dental care and hearing aids
To take advantage of these valuable discounts, all your employees need to do is show their Independent Health member ID card.
- Nutrition Benefit – Our unique Nutrition Benefit* gives members the opportunity to get money-back rewards on fruits and vegetables. Members receive $1 back in rewards for every $2 they spend on fresh produce at TOPS Friendly Markets. The rewards dollars are paid out quarterly in the form of an in-store rewards card that can be used on future in-store grocery purchases, excluding tobacco products. Members can earn up to $1,000 on their produce purchases each year on a family plan and up to $500 on a single plan, with the benefit rewards tracked through the Tops BonusPlus® program.
- Health ExtrasSM – Our Health Extras benefit** provides members with a $250 prepaid Visa® debit card to use toward a variety of health and wellness activities and services for themselves or their dependents. If your plan includes the Health Extras benefit, your employees can use their Health Extras debit card to pay for a gym/fitness center membership, a Weight Watchers membership, vitamins and herbs, prepared meals, fitness equipment, massages and more. Participating partners in our Health Extras program are being added all the time. A complete list of Health Extras participating vendors is posted on our website.
- “Compare Rx Costs” – Since the price of medications can vary by pharmacy, your employees can use our “Compare Rx Costs” tool to review the cost of their medications at the different pharmacies in their neighborhood to see if they can save some money on them. This tool is easily accessible right from their Independent Health online member account.
*Benefits vary by plan. The Nutrition Benefit is available as a point-of-enrollment benefit with the majority of our small group plans. Offered as a rider for large group plans.
**Benefits vary by plan. Health Extras is available as a point-of-enrollment benefit with the majority of our small group plans. Available with FlexFit and FlexFit Select large group plans. Offered as a rider for all other large group plans.
Independent Health and ECMC work together to develop innovative transition of care models
Independent Health has a long history of working with physicians and hospitals to improve our members’ experience and health outcomes, while also lowering trends that deliver more affordable care. Since October 2021, we have partnered with the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) to develop a pair of innovative care programs for chronically ill members who have been discharged from an inpatient hospital stay, as well as members who have been discharged from emergency treatment for a psychiatric or substance use disorder.
Through this collaboration, ECMC has hired a transitions of care team that is funded by Independent Health to support our members through their hospitalization and transition back into the community. Here’s an overview of how these transformational programs work:
Individuals suffering from multiple chronic conditions often find themselves needing inpatient hospital care to treat exacerbations. Short-term hospital stays address the most immediate treatment needs for most patients. However, some individuals are at a higher risk for readmission back to the hospital because of the complex nature of their medical conditions. They require higher touch follow-up and coordination following their hospital discharge to maintain the health gains they made in the hospital, especially during the gap post hospital discharge but before their scheduled appointment with their community provider.
Although their short-term stays address the most immediate treatment needs, the patients’ long-term needs often go unaddressed. The longer the gap between the patient’s discharge and follow up care with an appropriate provider increases the chance for readmission, poor outcomes, and unneeded expenses.
To help address this issue, ECMC has implemented a Care Transition Program that focuses exclusively on Independent Health members who have been identified as needing this high-touch care. An integrated team of ECMC clinicians and support professionals proactively works with the most acute/high-risk members on a care plan for discharge and 30-day follow up. For example:
- An ECMC pharmacist meets with patients being discharged to perform medication counseling in the hospital to improve education and understanding about the importance of medication adherence.
- ECMC also employs patient navigators and social workers who will help link the patient to community resources or to a primary care physician for follow-up care.
As a result of the Care Transitions Program, our members have received better post-discharge care and are thus less likely to be readmitted to the hospital. Since deploying this program, Independent Health has noted a 4.3 percent drop in the readmission rate to ECMC for our members.
Individuals with mental illness or a substance use disorder need significant support and care to help them in their recovery, especially after they are discharged from emergency treatment. The pandemic has exacerbated individuals’ illnesses and has underscored the need for the uninterrupted transition from short-term to long-term treatment.
In order to improve the connection of patients treated through ECMC’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) to community-based behavioral health services, Independent Health and ECMC have created the Virtual Bridger Program. The goal of this program is to connect a patient to an established outpatient behavioral health program to provide needed on-going treatment and reduce crisis episodes which require emergency behavioral health care.
The ECMC staff contacts the Independent Health member within two days of discharge to assess the member’s condition, ensure they obtain the right medications, determine barriers connecting to outpatient services, and ensure the patient follows through on their follow-up visit with their provider. The clinician will also assess during the conversation if the patient is stable or needs more immediate intervention. In some cases, this could mean an immediate telehealth visit rather than an emergency department intervention. For example:
- An ECMC social worker recently worked with a patient with an opiate use disorder worried about relapsing because of an error with the patient’s Suboxone prescription quantity. The social worker was able to correct the prescription error and assisted the patient in completing a follow-up visit with the appropriate provider.
The Virtual Bridger Program has successfully engaged with nearly 58 percent of the patients, which means there is a better chance of success for members in getting the support and care they need to optimize their recovery.
Thanks to the Care Transitions and Virtual Bridger programs, ECMC has become the “proving ground” for this transformational approach. Other local hospital providers are awaiting results of this approach to determine how best to implement it into their processes.
Helping your employees stay fit and active this summer through community partnerships
Independent Health and the Independent Health Foundation are excited to work with partners throughout Western New York to help our community get healthy, stay active and have fun in the sun. The following activities, programs and events are just some of the ways we're working to improve the health and well-being of our community – not just our members:
- Outer Harbor – Explore the land and open water with kayak and bike rentals at Wilkeson Pointe, the 3-mile Independent Health Wellness Trail and the Lakeside Bike Park. Free fitness classes are also available all summer long.
- Tifft Nature Preserve Wellness Walks – Get your steps in this summer with Wellness Walks. Join us every Thursday morning at Tifft for a free guided walk through the preserve while taking in the sights and sounds of nature.
- Fitness in the Parks – Perfect for all ages and abilities, this popular program gives you the chance to get fit for free in a park near you with our friends from the YMCA. Yoga, Zumba®, kickboxing, cardio dance, and boot camp are among the classes being offered at 25 locations across the region through August 31.
- Reddy Bikeshare – Nearly 400 GPS-enabled Reddy bikes are currently available for short-term, shared use at 90 stations throughout Buffalo and Niagara Falls. It’s a great way to commute to work, visit your favorite park, or just take a leisurely ride on a nice day.
- SkyRide – Save the date for GObike Buffalo’s annual SkyRide on Sunday, August 14. Join us for a family-friendly bike ride to see Buffalo like never before!
- Food Truck Tuesdays – This weekly community event, which features nearly 45 food trucks, takes place every Tuesday, from 5 to 8 p.m., through August 30. Join us on select dates for “Independent Health Night” with free giveaways (while supplies last). Look for Healthy Options® on the menu at every food truck.
- Buffalo RiverWorks – As the official health and wellness partner of Buffalo RiverWorks, Independent Health encourages you to beat the summer heat with kayak, hydrobike and paddle board rentals as well as adventure activities like ziplining, rock wall climbing, and the ropes course.
In addition, your employees can follow Independent Health on Facebook for a chance to win great prizes with our “Bringing Healthy to You” summer contest. To check out all the fun ways we’re helping Western New Yorkers stay active through our community partnerships, visit our website.
Our comprehensive pharmacy strategy delivers quality & value
Addressing the complex drivers of health care costs takes collaborative approaches with providers. As Western New York’s only locally-based health plan, Independent Health works in partnership with physicians and providers to implement solutions to deliver quality and value in pharmacy benefits. Our long-standing relationships with providers enable us to work closely with them to influence change and help them deliver quality, cost-effective drug management. To learn more, visit our “A Healthy Vision” Blog.
Have employees who will be retiring soon? We’re here to help!
When considering retirement, people often feel overwhelmed with information and choices when it comes to Medicare. At Independent Health, we understand that it may seem complicated. That’s why our RedShirtsSM are here to make Medicare easier for Western New Yorkers. If you have employees who are retiring soon, encourage them to stop by one of our conveniently-located Medicare Information Centers to learn more about their Medicare plan options. Or, if you prefer, our RedShirts can come to your workplace and deliver a presentation to your employees about the basics of Medicare (i.e., eligibility, timing, applying, coverage and costs, etc.). Simply contact your account manager to let us know if you’re interested in this option.