Episode 372: Helping Employees Understand Their Benefits to Make the Right Choices With Chad Wilkins, HSA Bank

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Episode 372: Helping Employees Understand Their Benefits to Make the Right Choices With Chad Wilkins, HSA Bank

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Table of Contents

A study of almost 24,000 employees at a major Fortune 100 company found that 61% of them chose the wrong health plan for their needs because they didn’t do the homework or do the math on those benefits offerings. And about one in three people are able to correctly identify the three common health insurance terms like premiums, co-pays and deductibles, which is really surprising. So what, we’re evangelists about helping people understand their benefits, make the right choices, and get the most out of those, those benefits.

Episode 372: Helping Employees Understand Their Benefits to Make the Right Choices With Chad Wilkins, HSA Bank


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.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:59.13] It’s benefit selection season or it’s coming. I hate to break it to you and you might be thinking about how you’re going to educate and communicate about employee benefits selections and more importantly, talking to their dependents and spouses about health and benefit programs focused on driving engagement, education and ultimately adoption. You know, that selection that should be happening with your existing benefits programs. I have found that employees just don’t know about things like HSAs, 41K programs, and other benefit plans and programs. My guest today is going to shed some light on these things and how to best educate and engage and talk to employees about your benefit program offerings. Welcome to the Workology Podcast. It’s sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey. Share your insights at HRBenchmarkSurvey.com. Now, before I introduce our guests, I want to hear from you. You can shoot me a text to the number 512-548-3005. Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. You can ask me questions, leave comments and make suggestions for future guests. So back to our guest today, I am joined by Chad Wilkins, Executive Vice President of Webster Bank and President of HSA Bank, where he is responsible for leading the organization and its people towards sustainable growth well into the future. Chad joined HSA Bank in 2014, bringing with him more than 25 years of experience in the banking and health insurance industries. Chad has a consistent history of achievement in sales, leadership, relationship management, product management, PNL leadership and employee engagement throughout his role as President of the Wilkins Group, which is his own consulting company specializing in health care and financial services. Also as Chief Executive Officer of Optum Health Financial Services and Senior Vice President of Commercial Large Markets at US Bank. Chad’s background of managing multimillion-dollar PNLs and aggressive growth targets to deliver revenue and profit improvement, his proven ability to create, retain and lead teams in a high-paced, high-stress environment, and his knowledge of financial services and healthcare financial systems and technology position him as a well-rounded business leader equipped to lead HSA bank, its members, and its employees into the next generation of financial health care. Chad, welcome back to the Workology Podcast.

Chad Wilkins: [00:03:47.64] All right. Thank you. It’s nice to be here this morning. I appreciate you inviting me today.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:51.96] Absolutely. And welcome back, really. I feel like we’ve been doing this, we’re old friends for sure. So, it’s good to have you back.

Chad Wilkins: [00:03:58.05] Exactly. Yeah, It’s great to be back. So thanks. Thanks again.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:04:01.86] For those who haven’t listened to our previous podcast interviews, can you talk to us about HSA Bank?

Chad Wilkins: [00:04:07.86] Yes, of course. So HSA Bank is a division of Webster Bank and we provide HSA’s flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement arrangements and commuter benefits. We have about 3 million members, over 35,000 employer groups, and we hold around $11 billion in savings on behalf of our HSA customers. Our vision is to help everyone save for a healthy future by empowering people to feel more confident and engaged in their health and wealth. And in doing that, we have about 20 years of experience. We were one of the first to enter the HSA industry more than 20 years ago, and we’ve been a leader in this space ever since. And you know, the reason why is because you not only need to have great products and services in this in this space and, and flawless execution, but, you know, we are laser-focused on what we feel is the biggest challenge in the industry, and that’s the lack of a broad understanding of benefits and HSAs and how to optimize your choices around those. And, you know, it’s commonly understood that most people, or a high percentage of people don’t understand their benefits very well. And, you know, a couple of examples. We do a survey every year and, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of information out there. A study of almost 24,000 employees at a major Fortune 100 company found that 61% of them chose the wrong health plan for their needs because they didn’t do the homework or do the math on those benefits offerings. And about one in three people are able to correctly identify the three common health insurance terms like premiums, co-pays and deductibles, which is really surprising. So what, we’re evangelists about helping people understand their benefits, make the right choices, and get the most out of those, those benefits.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:05:54.82] Well, thank you for that. And I think that a lot of HR people can totally relate because the tsunami of questions that we get as HR leaders from employees and their family members about their health plans and different benefits programs is overwhelming. But that’s just the people who come and ask us the questions, not the people who just make the choice for their benefits plan and don’t really seek out information to make the best decision.

Chad Wilkins: [00:06:23.92] Yeah, there it is. That’s, that’s the challenge, right? Is, it’s not the people who are engaged and leveraging all the information and tools if those that aren’t, how do you get, get after them and engage them and activate them?

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:36.88] Let’s talk about maybe some different plans, maybe for anyone who isn’t already familiar. Can you walk us through what consumer-directed health care plans are? And how is an HSA different from a 401k?

Chad Wilkins: [00:06:52.93] Absolutely. CDHPs, or consumer-driven health plans, come in various forms, but basically their high deductible health plans and also referred to as HD IPS that allow the opportunity to use a tax-advantaged health account such as a health savings account with them, they typically have a little bit higher deductibles but lower premiums, and that that gap is actually narrowing over the years. But when you enroll in an app, you’re automatically eligible to open up an HSA, and HSA accounts are the best tax-advantaged account available, bar none. You know, they’re even greater than 401Ks because of their triple tax advantage, where every dollar that goes in goes in pretax, the dollars grow tax-free. And when you use the funds and for medical expenses, they come out tax-free. So as long as you’re using them for qualified medical expenses. So it’s a great savings vehicle for, for health care. And it’s also a mistake in that people think they lose the, when they leave their employer leave the health plan, they lose the funds. But that’s not the case that they just say if you change jobs or retire, leave your health plan, the, the money, the HSA and the money in the HSA account go with you wherever you go. And this is really important. You know, this savings aspect of an HSA is really important because of some of the things we just talked about.

Chad Wilkins: [00:08:16.87] We do a health wealth index survey every year and in 2022 results showed that about 30% of the respondents weren’t sure if they could afford health care costs in the near term or in retirement. And that about a little more than half of respondents indicated that they rarely or never save for future medical expenses. So HSA fees are a great option for individuals who want to an active role in managing their health and wealth. And as our survey has shown, that individuals with private health plans, they’re the most engaged in planning for their medical expenses. And that’s been consistent for about the last five years. And I’ll mention one other stat that we’ve surveyed the industry, and there’s a lot of different reports that show that a couple retiring today will need about over $650,000 for health care and retirement, which can equate to about 71% of their Social Security benefits for medical expenses. So it’s really important that, that individuals look at saving for health care as they as they retire. And also, you know, it offers a short-term savings as well. So to sum it up, 401Ks are specifically designed for retirement savings, while HSAs are intended for medical savings and offer opportunities to save both now and in retirement. But using them in tandem is probably the best way to maximize your savings for retirement.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:09:43.31] Thank you for sharing. I feel like, especially since I’m thinking about all the questions that HR leaders are getting, that I’m getting, that you’re getting about the difference between an HSA and a 401K plan. I want to snip this part of the audio, put it out to the masses to Tik Tok and reels and other places so that HR leaders can share it with their employees while they’re in the process because sometimes they just don’t think to ask HR or the benefits team these kinds of questions.

Chad Wilkins: [00:10:14.09] Yeah, I think that’s great. As a matter of fact, we, you know, we’ve seen some really great Tik Tok videos of gen z’s, gen x, they’re getting out there and finding other ways to learn more about HSAs and 401Ks, so, you know, getting engagement in any way possible to activate individuals to take action is, is really key.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:10:38.27] So HSA has begun the process of rolling out an enhanced employer administration site. Can you talk to us more about the new user experience for employers?

Chad Wilkins: [00:10:49.43] Yes, I appreciate you asking about that. We are very excited about what we’re doing here. And this is when you change your, your customer experience, it’s, it’s not about replacing something that was inadequate. It’s about us advancing the things we’re talking about, right? So being able to provide an experience where we can be more proactive and identifying opportunities for our customers, whether it be the employer, customer or the individual, so where they can take action and then giving them the tools, resource, direction that they need in order to actually take action and get the most value out of the products and services that we offer. So we’re developing a best-in-class experience. We think it’s a leader in the industry because we monitor those things pretty closely. It helps engage our customers, employees get some access to tools, as I said, and read the resources they need to be more engaged. Things like managing health care and investment decisions and all that are some of the toughest things that folks have to do and think through as we talked about to this point. And so our goal is to make sure that this portal and it extends across our entire experience, helps guide employers and their employees through, through these decisions.

Chad Wilkins: [00:12:09.11] And, you know, you had mentioned that a lot of folks are frustrated at employers benefits managers because they get inundated from, with all of these questions from employees. So we’re actually offering up to the employer. We’re doing kind of plan comparison reporting online where you can go in and we’ll give you this is how you compare to others in your industry or across the HSA space in terms of enrollments, contribution rates and engagement. And it’ll highlight areas where you have opportunities and then provide you with the action that they can take in order to execute on these opportunities and what they should expect in terms of outcomes or results. So it’s been great and that we used to do that a lot through just through direct contact of our accounting and so on, but now this allows us to deploy this in a more proactive way across our entire employer, 35,000 employers, and give them the tools ready at their fingertips, tips and the action. We’ll still help them through it, but it makes it available 24/7 whenever they need it.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:13:15.86] I love that, and I feel like the more information, the more data that we have compared to benchmarks, the better that we can kind of temperature gauge where we are in terms of adoption or engagement. And that should include benefits plans and programs like HSA has.

Chad Wilkins: [00:13:33.38] Exactly, Yeah. And we’ve had great feedback from, from our customers on the, just the look and feel and the ease of use.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:13:42.53] Awesome. Well, your health plan comparison calculator helps people determine if an HSA is a good fit for their health care plan and this is available on the HSA bank website. I wanted to ask you, how does this support decision-making for individuals?

Chad Wilkins: [00:13:59.78] Yeah, this is one of the tools we’re talking about, right? When we, we offer to our employers, just one of many where we’ll say this is you have an opportunity to create more engagement and deeper penetration of an HSA into your benefits offering, right? Because a lot of times, you know, about 30% of the time given a choice between multiple health plans, people will make the wrong choice. And, and when they do, it can cost them, you know, not just hundreds of dollars, but it can cost thousands of dollars in additional premiums or health care costs or the lack of tax savings. So this health plan calculator, it gives employees the opportunity to provide a little bit of information on what their expected health care costs are, if their income, what the premium is, and compare all the plans that they have as options, and then tells them specifically how much we think that plan will cost, compares and contrasts and gives you the option to pick the one that makes the most sense for you. And it’s not just the calculator, but we also have contribution calculators which help you understand how much you can save in your account and how that’ll accumulate for retirement. So similar to what you use on 401k savings calculators. And then we have partners that if you really want to go in-depth or an employer really wants to go in-depth, we have partners that have more in-depth decision support tools like My Health Math, where you’re actually given, guided through the process of doing the math on your choices, and we’re making recommendations as to the best plan for you, and again, how much we think you could save if you select that plan. And on average, employees who go through this process with My Health Math, for instance, we’re saving them 1300 dollars a year when they go through the process and choose a different plan.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:16:01.24] Wow. That’s really impressive. I do really feel like knowledge is power and giving people access to this information digitally, virtually for themselves, for their families to be able to work through it is only going to help sign-up rates, engagement and just use of these benefits that are available for employees through us as employers.

Chad Wilkins: [00:16:26.44] Yes, exactly. And I think the challenge is not only providing the tools and resources, but it’s we’re still having some, a lot of challenge getting to, if you don’t mandate a program like that or have incentives and encouragement to participate, we’re having trouble getting to that population that isn’t engaged, right. So the challenge is engaging that population, actually, take the time and use the tool. Or make it a active enrollment. So where you’re forcing people to go through the exercise.

Break: [00:17:01.12] Let’s take a reset, shall we? This is Jess Miller-Merrell and you’re listening to the Workology Podcast sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey. Share your HR insights at HR Benchmark Survey. Today, I’m talking with Chad Wilkins. He’s the Executive Vice President of Webster Bank and President of HSA Bank. Before we get back to the podcast, I want to hear from you. Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you.

Break: [00:17:38.44] Benchmarking and data is crucial to HR leaders. Workology’s HR Benchmark Survey is an always-on survey and just by taking the survey at HRBenchmarkSurvey.com, you’re signing up to get comprehensive quarterly results, white papers, and other research from the survey right to your inbox. It takes 10 minutes or less to complete. Visit HRBenchmarkSurvey.com.

Early, Often and Year-Round


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:04.99] Employers have a lot of different challenges, but especially with the hybrid workforce. It’s not just all in the office. It’s not just all remote. It’s a mix of a little bit of everything. And I feel like catering to those working from home and those in the office is a challenge, especially for parents of young children. How does digital tools for financial help work for employees? Not necessarily just parents of young children, but all employees?

Chad Wilkins: [00:18:36.16] Yeah, I think the, what’s happened over the last few years with more folks working from home or more flexible kind of work-from-home and in-office arrangements has forced us to get a lot better with all of our digital tools and resources, and to be able to deliver these things both virtually and or in person, because obviously when the pandemic hit was everything went virtual, right? And we had to scramble to make sure that we could have large audiences participating in virtual fairs and things like that, again, getting the tools and resources up and running. And it took a little bit of time. But what we found during, you know, by doing that, that we could actually reach and engage a greater population because of the things you mentioned. You’ve got people at home and they’re taking care of their, their kids and spouses could now participate in these virtual meetings. Whereas before, when you have them on-site, it’s a lot more difficult to do that sort of thing. So that’s one thing that has improved. And as you know, we’ve opened back up again now we’re doing, it’s basically a hybrid approach to these fairs and, and seminars and webinars and that type of thing. So it, because different generations may want to engage in these opportunities in different ways.

Chad Wilkins: [00:19:59.71] Baby boomers, probably more, as we survey, are more apt to want to come in and see things in person. And, you know, the younger generations tend to be a lot more comfortable with these virtual type of sessions. And then the other is the tools, I think it’s important to make sure that we’re starting very early so that you get the information out well ahead of, of the enrollment period and stay engaged with employees all year round, right? As, as opportunities arise. We have great campaigns that we’ve built up that we have this campaign called the 30, 60, 90 campaign that starts 30 days after you enroll and gives you guidance on, you know, now you’ve opened an account, let’s make contributions. Now let’s make sure that you name beneficiaries and those types of things and then start thinking about saving for a longer term. Cover your deductible, save for retirement, of giving them guidance along the way. And there’s, should be a 30, 60, 90 on the front end of before enrollment where you’re preparing people for that same type of thing and offering the kind of tools that, that we’ve talked about.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:11.23] Now, we’ll link to this in the show notes. But you recently released the 2022 HSA Bank Health and Wealth Index, which highlights some interesting trends. Can you talk a little bit about the report and what’s the most important factor for employers?

Chad Wilkins: [00:21:27.55] Yeah, we, we’ve been doing this for many years now and we love it because it helps tell us where we have opportunities and, and how perhaps we’re doing in terms of pursuing those opportunities. I’ve hit a lot of that throughout the discussion today. You know, when we talk about the people understanding, saving for retirement, understanding of their health benefits, knowing what they’re going to need for retirement, health care, all those types of things. There are findings that I referenced that came out of this, but some of the other interesting things that we’ve noticed were that there’s not a lot of difference in generations in terms of engagement in health and wealth, right? It’s pretty close. It’s only a difference of about 2.8 points from the most engaged to the least engaged. So that was interesting. And then as we’ve had kind of unprecedented times over the last few years, a lot of stresses and challenges in the world. The survey found that younger Americans are pursuing and obtaining mental health care support significantly more than older generations. The stats are that 81% of baby boomer boomers and 64% of Generation X indicate that they have never obtained mental health care, compared to 46% of millennials and 43% of Gen Z. So, you know, probably more receptive and, and also maybe an indication of some of the stresses that folks experience over the last couple of years. Some other findings include the factors that are contributing to the great resignation for Gen Z. That’s, more than half of Gen Z respondents indicate that they would change employers to receive better health care benefits. And what’s interesting is that it goes back to what we talked about. It’s great to be able to offer benefits to your employees and employers focus on that. But the, if you don’t get people engaged, they don’t know about them and they don’t know how to take the best advantage of it. It’s the same as almost not offering it to them. And somebody else is doing that better than you. It can impact your ability to retain talent.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:23:31.39] Chad, I wanted to ask you before we go, what is the most important thing for employers to consider when planning educational programs for employee benefits?

Chad Wilkins: [00:23:41.85] Great question. And I think we’ve, we’ve touched on this as we’ve gone along. But if I were to say, the most important things to consider are going to be accessibility, understanding and engagement. So, making sure that folks can get to the things they need to help make decisions, that they understand it and that you’re, you’re driving engagement. Because, again, you know, the folks that aren’t engaged, just naturally engaged, that are the most important to reach out and activate. And that’s where the opportunity is. Because, as I said before, it’s so important that the Pew Research Center did a survey and roughly half of those surveyed cited benefits as either a major reason or a minor reason as to why they, they quit their job in 2021. So, you know, and I mentioned that the Gen Z were very vocal about benefits, and that is, would be a reason for either changing jobs or going to another employer. So it’s really important to make sure that you have the resources and the tools and not only the great benefits, but the resources and tools to be able to make sure people understand them. And then that you are finding unique and innovative ways to communicate and activate individuals. And that’s, you know, that’s why we built out the, we’re building out our new employer and employee websites so that we can proactively, when we can engage individuals, when and where they’re making decisions, give them an opportunity to, to leverage a tool or resource so that they can make the right decision and then showing them what the outcomes could be if they make those decisions. So we’ll keep on working with our employers to do that, encouraging them to do it. I think there’s all kinds of things you can do when we look at our other products and services that we offer, like FSA, HRAs, LSAs, which are lifestyle spending accounts, which have become more popular these days, making sure people know that those are available and they’re out there and how they can benefit from them. And doing it early, doing it often and doing it year-round as well is, is critical.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:25:53.40] Well, thank you so much, Chad, for your time and just sharing your knowledge. And as you’re talking, I’m thinking, yes, it is so important for HR leaders to really think about education and communication of their benefits, plans and programs, because we have people in the workplace who are wanting this information in different ways, which makes HR really a PR and communications department when it comes to training and information about benefits plans. So I appreciate you taking the time to chat with us so much.

Chad Wilkins: [00:26:26.82] My pleasure, Jessica. It’s been a pleasure, as always. And look forward to talking to you again soon.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:32.91] Absolutely.

Closing: [00:26:34.20] Total Rewards is such an important factor in our employer branding employee value proposition and the ability to attract and also retain talent. What we can offer to our employees around financial health is crucial to being competitive in our current talent marketplace. I appreciate Chad taking the time to talk with us and to share his insights, expertise, and experience with us today. Benefits education is so important, and I think that Chad really touched on the importance of creating a very well-thought-out plan for communication and education for employees, dependents, and spouses. Thank you again, Chad, for, for sharing your expertise with us. I also want to thank you for joining the Workology Podcast. And I want to hear from you. You can text “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This podcast is the Workology Podcast and it’s sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey. Share your insights at HRBenchmarkSurvey.com. This podcast is for the disruptive workplace leader who is tired of the status quo. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell. Until next time, visit Workology.com to listen to all our previous Workology Podcast episodes.

Connect with Chad Wilkins.



– Chad Wilkins on LinkedIn

– HSA Bank 2022 Health & Wealth Index Report

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

– Ep 231 – How COVID-19 Changes Your Company’s Employee Benefits

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