How We Have Forgotten by Norman Meullen CEBS Fellow

It has been an interesting phenomenon to watch over my 30 years in the business of helping companies deliver benefit programs how many have forgotten the basic premise behind why they spend millions of dollars above their W-2 wages.

The financials of benefit decisions have gone from being a minor blip on a CFO’s radar to one where today’s HR professional better be ready to support and defend to all their C-suite counterparts their business decisions surrounding these programs. Unfortunately, especially in the middle market and smaller employer community this defense is many times over the price of the products provided and not over the cost of these programs in terms of their DIRECT and INDIRECT impact to a company’s bottom line and long term success.

In the economy of the 21st century, even with the importance of technological superiority to a business, a company’s employees will ultimately make the difference between success and failure. While benefit programs are certainly not the end all in delivering a superior work force it is apparent from the results of surveys that they have become a significant reason for a person to join and stay with a company. It stands to reason that a superior benefit program in the eyes of your workforce will give you every opportunity to attract and retain the level of employee that will grow your business.¬†

 Employers equate higher price with superior benefits while that is not necessarily the case. Non-Fortune 1000 employers have limited HR resources and many times do not maximize the value of their programs in the eyes of their employees. When was the last time you asked your employees what benefits they wanted to have and what value each was to them in terms of staying with your firm? Strategic development of benefit programs that support the needs of your workforce and your corporate objectives will be significantly more cost effective over time than one that has appeared out of the blue.

Getting back to this basic and measuring the success of your programs through metrics meaningful to your company can and will make a difference in competing in today’s economy. Imagine less turnover, quality hires, buyin from all your workforce on the success of your firm. What value can you put on these key elements versus saving pennies on the dollar on the price of a given benefit product?

This is the premise of our company, Benefits Retain People, LLC. There are companies that recognize why they have purchased benefits and want to maximize their return. We can help. For those who have forgotten we can help you find your way back.


Health Savings Account
Employer Q&A

1. Can employers limit HSA providers?
According to field assistance bulletin 2004-1 released by the Department of Labor (DOL), an employer may
limit the forwarding of contributions through its payroll system to a single or a limited number of financial
organizations as long as neither the employer nor the financial organizations restricts the ability of the
employee to move the assets to an HSA at another financial organization.

2. Can an employer make a matching contribution?
If an employer chooses to make contributions for one employee, the employer must generally make
comparable contributions on behalf of all eligible individuals with comparable coverage during the same
period (calendar year). Contributions are considered comparable if they are the same amount or the same
percentage of each employee’s deductible under the HDHP. The comparability rule does not apply to
contributions made through a cafeteria plan. As a result, matching contributions may be made to HSAs
through a cafeteria plan.

3. How frequently can an employee change their HSA deduction amount under a cafeteria plan?
Employees with HSAs under cafeteria plan may be allowed to change their election at any time, as long as it
is done prospectively. The employer may place additional restrictions on the contribution election as long
as the same restrictions apply to all employees.

4. Can an employer offer negative elections?
Employer may provide negative elections for HSAs offered through a cafeteria plan.

5. Can an employer recoup a contribution amount if an employee terminates?
An account beneficiary’s interest (HSA owner) in an HSA is nonforfeitable. An employer may not recoup
amounts contributed to an employee’s HSA.

6. Can an employer make accelerated contributions?
If an employee elects to make HSA contributions through an employer’s cafeteria plan, the employer may,
but is not required to, make an accelerated contribution up to the maximum amount elected by the employee
to cover qualified medical expenses incurred by the employee that exceed the employee’s current HSA
balance. Accelerated contributions must be provided to all participating employees on the same terms.

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