Episode 326: Financial Health Benefits Featuring Chad Wilkins, President of HSA Bank

Summary:This episode of the Workology Podcast features Chad Wilkins, President of HSA Bank, talking about employee financial health benefits.

Episode 326: Financial Health Benefits Featuring Chad Wilkins, President of HSA Bank

Summary:This episode of the Workology Podcast features Chad Wilkins, President of HSA Bank, talking about employee financial health benefits.

Table of Contents

Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology.com as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools, and case studies for the business leader, HR, and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Episode 326: Financial Health Benefits Featuring Chad Wilkins, President of HSA Bank


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:25.44] Welcome to the Workology Podcast, sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. Today, we’re chatting about everything you need to know about benefits and health care spending accounts. I know that this is an area that I need more resources, and I am assuming that you probably do too. Today, I am talking with Chad Wilkins, president of HSA Bank. I’m so excited to be talking to Chad. We’re going to tap into his brain to learn all the things that we need to know, Chad. Welcome back to the Workology Podcast.

Chad Wilkins: [00:00:58.92] Thank you, Jessica. It’s wonderful to be here. Appreciate you having us.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:01:02.55] As I mentioned, you’ve been a previous guest, so let’s refresh everybody’s memories. Talk a little bit first before we get started about HSA Bank.

Chad Wilkins: [00:01:10.74] Yeah, HSA Bank has been in the health account space since 1997, so we were one of the originals to enter the space and we offer HSAs, FSAs, HRAs, all the account-based health care products. So financial services associated with, with health care. And you know, our mission is really just to help people understand the health care system and get the most out of every health care dollar and save long term for health care and retirement.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:01:40.71] I want to jump right in and let’s talk about care plans. I know we’re going right off the bat here. I wanted to ask what those are and then how is HSA different from a 401k?

Chad Wilkins: [00:01:54.57] Yeah, that’s a good, good place to start. CDHP or consumer-driven health care, they call it CDHP, it’s typically a health plan that has lower premiums and higher deductibles than traditional health plans, and they are also tied to tax-advantaged accounts like an HRA or an HSA. And an HSA is an individually owned account that can be funded by the employer or the, the employee, and the funds can be used tax-free for out-of-pocket health care expenses, and employees can also save tax-free long-term for retirement health care expenses. And they take the money with them because it’s their, it’s owned by the, the individual, and the funds come with you, even if you change jobs or retire or leave. The CDHPs and HSAs are a great option for individuals who want to take an active role in managing their health and wealth. And, you know, as a matter of fact, our surveys show that people who have high deductible health plans or HSAs are more engaged in planning for medical expenses. In our survey, and we’ll talk about that later, but you know, the difference between HSA and 401Ks is that 401Ks are specifically designed for retirement savings while HSAs are intended for medical savings. That’s really the biggest difference. And also, there’s the triple tax advantage that come along with an HSA in that the funds go in tax-free, they grow tax-free and they come out tax-free as long as you’re using them for qualified medical expenses. So, you know, we encourage employers and individuals to really have those work in tandem to maximize your ability to save long term for and short term for health care and in retirement.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:38.73] What changes have you seen in consumer-directed health plans over the past year and a half?

Chad Wilkins: [00:03:45.63] You know, it’s interesting. It’s been a very interesting couple of years, hasn’t it? You know, we haven’t seen a really big shift in changes in benefits offerings with employers over the past year and a half. I think, you know, most employers have had their hands full and still do with handling the fallout from the pandemic. Things like work from home and workplace policies and procedures, communication, communicating with their employees, not to mention recruiting and retaining talent. So, you know, that said, it’s important, you know, an important part of attracting and retaining talent for employers is your benefits program. And you know, employers that are taking best in class approach towards managing their benefits are doing, you know, we’re seeing them do three primary things. They offer a really good plan design with the right balance between premiums, deductibles, and contributions. Employer contributions to HSA as an incentive. They tie contributions to incentives for healthy behaviors like completing preventative exams, wellness activities, or encouraging employees to contribute more. And they offer decision support tools and guidance and resources to help employees make good decisions on, you know, things like plan selection and contribution levels and navigating the health care system. And I think employers are focusing more on that, and we’re seeing that in our results of our survey, we’re seeing an uptick of 56 to 57 in the Health and Wealth Index with, with respondents.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:05:21.40] I feel like you’ve just given us a two-minute master class on the three things we need to have in our employee benefits packages because retention is a struggle right now. Keeping those people that were already employed with us and it will continue to be, I believe, but also in attracting the new talent to, to fill those roles from either people who have exited or organization or as we grow. So don’t forget about benefits. It’s not just about posting and impulse surveys. There is so many different ways to attract and also retain your workers.

Chad Wilkins: [00:05:59.08] Yes, totally agree. It’s a, it’s funny. The, a lot of employers offer a great slate of benefits, but frequently engagement in those benefits is low. And that’s what our survey really bears out is that there’s a big opportunity to educate and, and help people get the most out of the benefits that are being offered.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:22.24] When you mentioned the survey, so first, I want to say we’re going to link to the survey, the fourth annual HSA Bank Health and Wealth Index. We’re going to link this in the show notes and. And this published earlier this year, and it highlights some interesting trends as a result of the pandemic. I want to have you talk a little bit about the report and what the most important factor is for employers.

Chad Wilkins: [00:06:50.34] Yes, love to. The, I’ll highlight three areas, but the report is, it’s called the HSA Bank Health Wealth Index. We do this annually. It’s a research report that explores trends in consumer, financial and physical health. You know, we’ve conducted the report, the research for four years in a row now, and, you know, we survey about two thousand adults in the, about their health plan enrollment status, health plan practices, their ability to pay for health care, and their confidence in their own health and wealth. I’ll highlight three key areas or findings. You know, the first, and I touched on this a little bit. It might be a repetitive theme. Here is that financial preparedness for older Americans is worrisome, as about 30 percent of respondents 55 or older never save for medical expenses. Even though the cost of health care and retirement remains their number one concern. And all groups have relatively lower scores than you would expect with regard to their knowledge about their benefits and plan costs and future health care expenses. Starting with, you know, this is kind of the worst to best general Gen Z. They’re the least educated, followed by millennials, Gen X, and then, boomers. You know, the second thing I’d mention is Americans still are seem to be wary of in-person appointments because of the pandemic. We’ve seen a big drop in the percentage of people getting preventative services and screenings. Hopefully, this will change because we did see an increase in telehealth services, which is kind of a corresponding effect that, you know, folks couldn’t get into the office and more used telehealth services. So that’s a good sign. And the last point I hit that was interesting was that there was a renewed with work from home, you know, a renewed interest in lifestyle changes. About 84 percent of respondents agreed that they made lifestyle changes to improve their health over the past year, including about 80 percent of folks 65 and older. So that was a positive sign.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:08:52.71] [00:10:10.29] I love that, and this is the fourth annual survey, so I feel like this is giving us and we’ll continue to give us some really great information. And so I encourage listeners to, to take a look at the survey. Use that as you’re putting together your employee benefit packages and plans, maybe talking to your executive team about what’s different, what’s going to change, and maybe what you’re going to add or remove.

Break: [00:09:19.20] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell and you were listening to the Workology Podcast sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. I’m talking today with Chad Wilkins. He’s the executive vice president of Webster Bank and president of HSA Bank.

Break: [00:09:34.35] Personal and professional development is essential for successful HR leaders. Join Upskill HR to access live training, community, and over one hundred on-demand courses for the dynamic leader. HR recert credits available. Visit UpskillHR.com for more.

Employee Financial and Physical Health Benefits With Chad Wilkins, President of HSA Bank


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:09:50.22] One of the things I wanted to also talk about and you touched on this briefly, was retirement readiness. What role can an employer play in supporting employees to prepare for retirement? Because I think the role that employers have in this area has changed dramatically, so I’d love to hear your point of view.

Chad Wilkins: [00:10:10.25] Yes, thank you. You know, that’s it’s something that’s changed to your point a lot over the last 25-30 years where 401Ks a long time ago, where, where relatively new and now its pension plans are, you don’t find them and it’s all 401Ks. Now HSAs are really introduced into the picture. So it can be a little complicated. So I mentioned that in our survey, we found that the future preparedness of older American Americans is a concern, with, you know, 93 percent of consumers over 55 are worried about current and future medical bills. But a third of those individuals reported that they rarely save money for future health care expenses. You know, it’s a real problem because, you know, we work with a company called Health News Services on our retirement calculator, and it’s estimated that a healthy average couple aged 65 retires in 2021 will spend 662,000 in retirement health care expenses. That’s the average. So we really need to help people plan and save for health care. And the best thing employers can do is pretty simple is offering benefits plans and designs that help, you know, their employees save for retirement. Things like 401Ks, HSA, retiree reimbursement accounts, and so on. And then, along with that, offering incentives to save, right? So matching contributions in an HSA or, or a 401k. The second is the tools and resources to, to help people engage, get educated on how to best plan and save for health care costs in retirement. So that is really the most important thing and we’re, we are, you might be hearing it evangelists about educate early, often communicate, and provide tools.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:04.22] I do know that retirement and saving is on the mind of so many people. In fact, just this morning, I frequent Facebook quite a bit and in one of my favorite Facebook groups, that’s run by a friend of mine for women, we were talking just about savings and planning and where people are and where they’re investing their money. No one in the conversation mentioned health care spending. It was just retirement kind of across the board and then some, some savings. So I love that we’re, we’re talking about this topic because I feel like our employers are not necessarily thinking about the other types of expenses that are a part of retirement.

Chad Wilkins: [00:12:47.87] Yeah, it’s a, it’s an under, understood, I guess, if you will, a topic and it is a, it’s a pretty serious one, right? Because it can, it can take you by surprise if you’re not prepared and there’s not much you can do about it at that time.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:13:03.08] 662,000 dollars on average of seriousness. So, it’s on me I got to get saving.

Chad Wilkins: [00:13:11.12] Exactly.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:13:12.86] You also mentioned retiree reimbursement accounts. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? Because it’s not something that I am very familiar with, but I would love to know more.

Chad Wilkins: [00:13:23.96] Yeah, we’ve, we recently began offering, we can recall these. There’s so many acronyms. It’s an RRA, retiree reimbursement arrangement, and they can be a more predictive cost-effective way for employers to continue to provide employees benefits in retirement so the employer can contribute funds into an employee’s tax-free account for things like Medicare premiums and other qualified medical expenses that they can use for retirement. And you know, it’s a perfect solution for the future, you know, it complements an HSA and a 401K, and providing another resource for, for funds in retirement. And sometimes they’re tied to things like exchanges where you can purchase Medicare Advantage plans and things like that tied to, you know, the expenses coming out of the, the RRA.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:14:18.35] One of the highlighted areas in your report talks about education for employees around health care and retirement planning, and this is something that I’m thinking about and I’m soaking up this conversation that we’re having. What is the most important thing for employers to consider when planning educational programs for employee benefits for employees and their families?

Chad Wilkins: [00:14:40.79] Yeah, it’s a great question, Jessica. And it’s again, we’re evangelists around this sort of thing because it is again so important. Engagement is relatively low. And so, you know, some of the things that we talked about, the importance of educating and providing tools and resources and everything. I think a different take on that is, is making sure that we’re looking at your employee base across a broad time horizon, right? They, you know, as you look at the survey results, they differ along generational lines, income levels, job types, so everybody has a little bit of a different view of, you know, like a millennial that is young and single and healthy. When they think about benefits is going to have a different view as someone with children versus somebody who’s getting close to retirement age. So we really need to focus on being, you know, flexibility and tailoring resources, tools and, and education materials and how we communicate on those segments of the population, right? And so tailoring the information to meet the person where they are, and then delivering it in a way that you’re meeting the person where they are and trying to be proactive about it.

Chad Wilkins: [00:15:55.71] So that said, the, the most important things to keep in mind are start communications and education before the open enrollment season. So start early because you want to be in front of them, you know, when they’re making decisions to select benefits and choose how much they’re saving. Two would be to keep language really simple and concise, so don’t overcomplicate it because you’ll lose, you’ll lose your audience. And then three, provide online tools and resources so that you can help individuals, employees visually see their savings and see the difference and looking out over time. So we have some great calculators that help with that. And then four, be flexible offer a mix of in-person meetings, online meetings, hybrid events, that type of things. So come out in multiple ways. And then last but not least, make sure you’re not just thinking about your employee, but the other decision-makers, their employee’s spouse. In many cases, it’s their partner or spouse who shares and handles the health care decisions. So figure out a way to make sure that you make it easy for not just the employee, but others that might be helping with making those decisions.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:17:05.58] So true, I think every year I’ve ever been involved in annual re-enrollment. I have had spouses or partners call me the day after or two hours before the deadline looking for resources and questions. So involving the partner/spouse and getting them access to information so that they can help make decisions is a critical part of making this easy for everyone.

Chad Wilkins: [00:17:30.21] It is, and you’re always pressed for time, right? It always seems like you wait until the last minute, so getting in front of it is really important too.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:17:37.77] Yes, the more information that we can put out there and also having it available on-demand, or maybe in a podcast or video format, depending upon what works for people, I feel like the better because people absorb and prefer, they have preferences for accessing information in different ways. I wanted to ask you about the future, so what is what does the future look like in terms of maybe new features or products from HSA Bank?

Chad Wilkins: [00:18:08.56] Yeah, I think the first thing I’d say is that, you know, I expect us to continue to see a shift towards HSA qualified plans because it really allows employees to cater to their own health care and savings needs, providing choice and customization on your own circumstances and allows you to prepare for the future. So, you know, I think we’ll, we’ll continue to see this space grow. I hope that we continue to see greater interest in education from employers so that they can help improve the health and well-being of their employees and address their concerns as they go through the, you know, their life cycle and meet their needs directly. And so, you know, with that said, our focus is on providing more sophisticated tools and resources to proactively help employers, help employees make good decisions when they select their benefits when they’re navigating a health care system. We’re preparing for health care and retirement. You know, over the next quarter, we’re, you know, we’re making a big investment right now in our online experience so that employees and individuals and the employers, that we can be more proactive in delivering tools and resources to, to both and we can measure and deliver results. How do you compare against, you know, this employer versus that employer in terms of your enrollments and your engagement and your contributions, and where, and proactively offering up tools and resources that you can employ at the moment to, to address those opportunities to improve and grow your program. So some of the tools we have to support that are a planned comparison calculator where you can, helps you pick the right plan.

Chad Wilkins: [00:19:59.03] You know, many people, when they have a choice, will pick the wrong plan if they don’t do the math, actually work on laying out all the parameters that you should. When you make that decision, about 20 or 30 percent are going to pick the wrong plan if they don’t use a tool. Health reimbursement calculators. We, we work with health news services to roll out a new calculator this year, and that’s to help individuals understand the future costs based on their medical situation and how much they’re going to need to save for retirement so that they can really customize their, their savings to that individual. And then we also work with some partners like Principal Financial Group, where we are now integrating our, getting a view of your health savings and your retirement account, right? So we, we are partnering with a lot of our investment partners and retirement firms to, to display a holistic view of your retirement. And because at the end of the day, we truly believe our mission is to help individuals get the most out of every health care dollar and save for a healthy future and the most value out of the things that that we do.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:08.98] I love that, and I love your focus on digital resources. Can’t go wrong with the internet, and especially when so many of us are working in some form of in-person, remote or, or hybrid. So making it easy for people to be able to get the resources. And when I say people I mean HR people, to get access to the resources to help support their organizations and their employees better in this area.

Chad Wilkins: [00:21:35.39] Yes, we, if it hasn’t come across yet, there are that’s a mission and vision is to help employers help individuals make the right decisions, get the most out of every health care dollar, save for retirement. And, and it’s, it’s not about just offering an account. It’s about all the value that goes along with it to help you get the most out of it.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:58.04] Well, Chad, again, I always learned so much when we talk and you’ve given us a lot of great information, I hope that our HR leaders can go forth and help their employees offer or get access to, to their benefits and really leverage them and then those employers to be able to really put together packages that are focused on retention and attraction. So thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. Where can people go to learn more about you and HSA Bank and the work that you guys are doing?

Chad Wilkins: [00:22:30.53] Yes, I think you’re hosting the access to our survey as part of the, the podcast and then HSABank.com, you should get, be able to get access to everything we’re talking about here today.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:22:45.35] Awesome, I will be posting Chad’s LinkedIn profile link in the show notes, as well as the 2021 HSA Bank Health and Wealth Index. You can go directly there or you can go visit HSA banks to learn more. Chad, thank you so much. Have a great day.

Chad Wilkins: [00:23:02.06] All right. Thank you, Jessica. You too. It’s been a pleasure.

Closing: [00:23:05.33] I’m so glad to have the opportunity to talk with Chad on the podcast again. Today, he’s back talking and giving us information and resources, arming us with knowledge when it comes to 401Ks, health care spending accounts, retirement readiness and reimbursement, and more. How do we educate our employees and help prepare them for these life moments, while also using our benefits packages as a tool to be able to help retain and attract employees? Especially now in the, what many are calling the great resignation. I am choosing to refer to it as the great realignment. Whatever and however you choose, talent retention and talent attraction are things that are top of mind for us in HR today, and our health benefits and programs that we’re offering and financial services should also be top of mind because they are a great way to provide value to keep employees and as well as bring new, amazing talent into the door. Thank you for you for joining us on the Workology Podcast, which is sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. This podcast is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell. Until next time, you can visit Workology.com to listen to all our episodes of the Workology Podcast.

Connect with Chad Wilkins.



– Chad Wilkins on LinkedIn

– 2021 HSA Bank Health & Wealth Index

– Episode 324: Talking HR With Tim Sackett, President of HRU Technical Resources

– Episode 323: TA Insights featuring Rob Dromgoole, Diane Sanford & Jude Reser

– Episode 322: Executive Buy In For DEIA With Kim Crowder

– Episode 321: Commitment to Full Inclusion with Susan Mazrui, Director of Global Public Policy at AT&T

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