BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With annual enrollment season in full swing, many Americans are facing the pressure of selecting health benefits for themselves and their families. Encouragingly, 8-in-10 Americans rank health benefits among their top priorities for workplace benefits, according to a new Fidelity Health℠ study. Of concern, however, is the more than half (56%) who admit the thought of annual enrollment makes them feel “overwhelmed” or “discouraged” and, according to the clinicians that care for them1, creating a care plan that makes the best use of the benefits selected can often be challenging.
“Americans and their clinicians clearly recognize the importance of making annual enrollment decisions, given the important role health plays in overall wellness,” said Steve Betts, head of Fidelity Health℠. “The good news is, with the proper approach, employers and employees can reimagine annual enrollment as an opportunity to build a stronger, healthier future, not as a time of stress.”
Just what the doctor ordered: benefits clarity
Employers are increasingly investing in health-related benefits, and with good reason: according to the study, health tops the list of workplace benefits among employees, followed by retirement and emergency savings. But despite this attention, only 35% of clinicians report actually knowing which prescription drugs are covered or which providers are in-network under their patients’ plans.
The remedy? Clinicians believe employers should invest in more high-touch support, such as workplace education and training opportunities2. The reason is clear: the more informed employees are about their benefits options, the better equipped they are to have candid conversations with their care provider, who can then build a health plan best suited for them. With one-third of survey respondents looking to their employer or benefits provider when making enrollment decisions, and nearly half looking to health care providers, all players in the health benefits ecosystem must align in delivering education and resources during annual enrollment and beyond.
“People who are confident in their health care decisions are more likely to report better mental health, financial security, and overall satisfaction,” said Betts. “Employers can play an important role, and while high-touch assistance may mean a higher investment, it could also result in greater return in the form of a healthier, happier, and more resilient workforce.”
Just what the wallet ordered: understanding out-of-pocket costs
Health benefits can be complex— nearly half of Americans cannot correctly identify terms like deductible and copay3 — but weighing health plan options can be as simple as considering what your health needs may be, starting with last year’s spending as a baseline. It’s important to compare full out-of-pocket costs to understand the distinct advantages for every unique situation.
For example, an individual enrolled in a high deductible health plans (HDHPs) may be able to open a health savings account (HSA), a tax-advantaged account savers can leverage to pay for qualified medical expenses while also planning for health care costs in retirement —an estimated $157,500 for a 65-year-old individual retiring this year4. Among the many benefits of HSAs includes the triple-tax advantage: there are no taxes on contributions, no taxes while money grows in the account, and any withdrawals taken to pay for qualified medical expenses are tax-free as well5. Despite these advantages, however, the study shows many Americans still hold misconceptions about HSAs; only half (49%) of survey respondents were familiar with the features of HSAs. This lack of clarity can lead to confusion, with nearly half of respondents incorrectly believing HSA funds expire at the end of the year (46%) and even more being unaware that HSA dollars can be invested (51%).
“It’s important to understand there are no ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ rules in an HSA—your account balance carries year-over-year and can be used now or in the future,” said Ryan Viktorin, CFP®, vice president and financial consultant at Fidelity. “If you take advantage of an HSA by investing your contributions, your savings could potentially grow over time as well.”
To help employers and employees alike prepare for annual enrollment, Fidelity offers resources:
- To learn more about how to navigate your annual benefits enrollment with confidence and make the most of your selections, Fidelity offers guidance in the 2023 Annual Enrollment Guidebook.
- While selecting health insurance may seem daunting, Fidelity has a free comparison calculator tool to help compare the costs an individual may end up paying with different types of health plans.
- For more on selecting a health insurance plan, Four steps to choosing a health insurance plan from Fidelity Smart Money and Make Informed Health Plan Choices from Fidelity Viewpoints.
- Adopting a healthy lifestyle and embracing preventive care may help to keep medical expenses at bay—more in 10 Ways to Slash Your Health Care Spending from Fidelity Viewpoints.
- Fidelity’s 2023 HSA Key Insights examines how employers should approach their HSA benefit offering.
- Clinician Insights is first-of-its-kind research from Fidelity Health Thought Leadership that surveys doctors, nurses, and mental health professionals to better understand their perspectives on benefits.
About Fidelity’s Fall 2023 Health Care Outlook
This study presents the findings of an online survey among a demographically representative sample of 2,021 adults 18 years of age and older. Fidelity for this survey was completed between August 25-30, 2023, by Big Village, which is not affiliated with Fidelity Investments.
About Fidelity Investments
Fidelity’s mission is to strengthen the financial well-being of our customers and deliver better outcomes for the clients and businesses we serve. With assets under administration of $11.7 trillion, including discretionary assets of $4.5 trillion as of June 30, 2023, we focus on meeting the unique needs of a diverse set of customers. Privately held for over 75 years, Fidelity employs over 70,000 associates who are focused on the long-term success of our customers. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit https://www.fidelity.com/about-fidelity/our-company.
Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time, and you may gain or lose money.
The information provided here is general in nature. It is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal or tax advice. Because the administration of an HSA is a taxpayer responsibility, customers should be strongly encouraged to consult their tax advisor before opening an HSA. Customers are also encouraged to review information available from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for taxpayers, which can be found on the IRS Web site at www.IRS.gov. They can find IRS Publication 969, Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans, and IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses (including the Health Coverage Tax Credit), online, or you can call the IRS to request a copy of each at 800.829.3676.
Views expressed are as of the date indicated, based on the information available at that time, and may change based on market or other conditions. Unless otherwise noted, the opinions provided are those of the speaker or author and not necessarily those of Fidelity Investments or its affiliates. Fidelity does not assume any duty to update any of the information.
The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification, which is also referred to as a CFP® certification, is offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (“CFP Board”). To obtain the CFP® certification, candidates must pass the comprehensive CFP® Certification examination, pass the CFP® Board’s fitness standards for candidates and registrants, agree to abide by the CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, and have at least three years of qualifying work experience, among other requirements. The CFP Board owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, CFP® (with plaque design), and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S.
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1 Fidelity Health Thought Leadership Clinician Survey, fall 2022. Sample included 750 practicing U.S. clinicians.
2 Fidelity Health Thought Leadership Clinician Survey, fall 2022. Sample included 750 practicing U.S. clinicians.
3 Forbes, “Americans Confused by Basic Health Insurance Terms but Happy with Their Plans,” December 8, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/health-insurance/confused-by-health-insurance-terms/.
4 Fidelity Investments 2023 Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate based on a single person retiring in 2023, 65-years-old, with life expectancies that align with Society of Actuaries' RP-2014 Healthy Annuitant rates projected with Mortality Improvements Scale MP-2020 as of 2022. Actual assets needed may be more or less depending on actual health status, area of residence, and longevity. Estimate is net of taxes. The Fidelity Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate assumes individuals do not have employer-provided retiree health care coverage, but do qualify for the federal government’s insurance program, original Medicare. The calculation takes into account Medicare Part B base premiums and cost-sharing provisions (such as deductibles and coinsurance) associated with Medicare Part A and Part B (inpatient and outpatient medical insurance). It also considers Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) premiums and out-of-pocket costs, as well as certain services excluded by original Medicare. The estimate does not include other health-related expenses, such as over-the-counter medications, most dental services and long-term care.
5 With respect to federal taxation only. Contributions, investment earnings, and distributions may or may not be subject to state taxation.