SOURCE: Acclaris


July 29, 2015 09:00 ET

Industry Acknowledges Consumer Confusion About Health Savings and Reimbursement Accounts

Acclaris Survey Finds HSAs Are Not Well Understood and Changes in Consumer Education Are Needed

TAMPA, FL--(Marketwired - Jul 29, 2015) - Acclaris, a Towers Watson company and leading SaaS technology and services provider for consumer-directed accounts, today released the "Acclaris Consumer Education Survey Report." Based on a recent survey of 300+ industry professionals, Acclaris found healthcare industry professionals acknowledge there is a clear lack of consumer knowledge about consumer-driven healthcare accounts -- especially health savings accounts (HSAs). The report measured their take on the current consumer climate for health savings account (HSAs), health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs), and also explored challenges and opportunities for consumer education initiatives.

"Consumers are still extremely confused about consumer-directed health plan options and when or how to best use the funds in those accounts -- especially when it comes to HSAs. The call for improved consumer education is clear," noted Dean Mason, CEO of Acclaris. "Employers need to ensure that employees understand how to make the most of their benefits. This can only be done via continuous, high-touch engagement throughout their healthcare journey -- empowering consumers with the knowledge they need to make smart healthcare finance decisions that will affect them during their working years and throughout retirement."

Healthcare Professionals Claim Consumers Are Behind the Curve

According to the report, healthcare professionals think consumers still have an extremely limited understanding of health savings and reimbursement accounts. The majority of respondents have no confidence in the average consumer's understanding of HRAs, HSAs, FSAs, etc., with 64 percent rating their understanding as "mediocre" and another 28 percent rating their understanding as "poor." HSAs continue to be the most difficult account type for consumers to understand according to 40 percent of respondents, trailed by HRAs at 27 percent.

However, the report found that awareness was not the issue. Only 20 percent noted lack of awareness as the biggest barrier to adoption of health savings and reimbursement accounts, whereas the majority (62 percent) cited lack of education as the real culprit. The industry agrees that consumers need continuous education.

Major Consumer Challenges

More than 32 percent of respondents reported that understanding when an HSA can/should be used is one of the most critical gaps in consumer knowledge about consumer-driven health plan and reimbursement accounts. This is an increasingly important issue that needs to be addressed as consumer-driven health plan and reimbursement accounts quickly gain traction in the benefits industry -- 80 percent of respondents who offered such health plans in another 2015 Acclaris survey included HSAs in the mix. Respondents also cited understanding which expenses are reimbursable (20 percent) and knowing when to use healthcare accounts (18 percent) as critical gaps for consumers.

In addition, when asked about the top challenges for consumer education and engagement, more than half of respondents called out consumers' passive role (56 percent), lack of understanding about the long-term account benefit (52 percent) and that consumers struggle with the connection between healthcare and spending accounts (51 percent).

Additional Top Findings Include:

  • Responsibility has shifted to employers - More than half (53 percent) of respondents think that employers are responsible for educating consumers about consumer-driven health plans, while only 21 percent thought insurance brokers should be.

  • Email wins the war for consumer education while social media sits out - When asked which communication channels were most effective at educating consumers, respondents cited email as the most "loved" at 26 percent. In contrast, social media earned the highest "loathe" rating at 28 percent. If employers want to educate consumers, they should consider these communication channels, ranked from best to worst: email, online help, benefits portal, seminars/peer forums, chat, text, telephone, social media.

  • Consumers dislike pop-up tips and value one-on-one conversations - Respondents (22 percent) rated pop-up tips as the most "loathed" when asked about effective content types. However, one-to-one conversations are back in vogue and ranked highest on the "love" scale at 38 percent. Overall, the report found content ranked best to worst as follows: one-to-one conversations, FAQs, seminars, brochures, videos, slide decks, podcasts, pop-up tips.

  • Overwhelming support for continuous education and engagement - The majority of respondents agreed that consumers need information at all points in the benefits process (47 percent) and continuously throughout the year (21 percent). Only seven percent thought information could be limited to enrollment.

"Employers need to turn up the heat on educating consumers on health savings and reimbursement accounts," added Mason. "Listening to consumers and figuring out which channels are most effective is the only way that we can close these gaps. We now know what industry professionals think works, but more research needs to be done to determine what really works for consumers."

To dive deeper into the report findings, access the infographic.


Acclaris conducted this online survey starting in June 2015 and completed in July 2015 through a variety of online channels. More than 300 healthcare professionals responded to the "Acclaris Consumer Education Survey Report" survey. Respondents came from a wide range of companies, from $10 million to more than $5 billion in annual revenue and representing a broad cross-section of health plans, health plan consultants, benefits administrators, financial institutions and more. Further, the respondent pool collectively covers various organizational roles: operations, consulting, sales/marketing, business strategy, product development, etc. A comprehensive breakdown of respondents can be found in the full report.


Acclaris provides the services and technology that health plans, benefit consultants and financial institutions rely on to deliver healthcare and reimbursement accounts to a growing market. Acclaris stands out from the competition for its operational efficiency, configurable (SaaS) technology and responsive service team. Partnering with Acclaris, clients of all sizes are able to deliver a range of innovative account options and an exceptional consumer experience. Acclaris was recently acquired by Towers Watson (NASDAQ: TW), and will become the Consumer Directed Accounts line of business within Towers Watson's Exchange Solutions segment. Learn more at


Towers Watson (NASDAQ: TW) is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. With 15,000 associates around the world, the company offers consulting, technology and solutions in the areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Learn more at

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Contact Information

  • Media Contact:
    Erica Camilo
    Connexa Communications for Acclaris
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