Just for fun, I went into the Citibank branch closest to my office. I asked the teller “Can I open a Health Savings Account, or an HSA, with Citibank?” The look on her face, and the teller next to her, was priceless. It was an American Express moment.
While one teller could not move past the permanently perplexed look (she was a deer in headlights), at least the other one, Vicki, realized she knew how to figure out the answer. She went to her computer console and did a search. Lots of scrolling later, she found…CitiBank Health Savings Account!! They do offer one. Now only if their employees knew this. She read the description out loud to me, and herself. It was the first time she ever heard of it.
As an aside, we then talked about her insurance coverage as a CitiBank employee. She has a PPO. She pays $80 per month. She believes this is the total cost of her insurance, that CitiBank does not make any contribution. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m assuming her total insurance coverage is not $960 per year.
My message to banks and insurance companies. You really stink at explaining HSAs to people. Your own employees don’t even know what they are. Don’t get me started on…too late, you just did…
I’m going to link today’s bank experience to yesterday’s experience with our broker and prospective HSA provider, Empire Blue Cross Blue Shields. First of all, our broker had never sold an HSA before. And he wasn’t very happy we even wanted to go that route. After many Indian sunburns, we finally got him to submit a few plans for our review. None were all that good. A conversation with Roy Ramthun, President Bushes former health policy advisor, helped me understand why. New York is not a very HSA friendly state. And insurance companies don’t have a lot of incentive to provide competitive plans. And brokers don’t have incentive to sell a plan that offers them less commission.
As any good intentioned company would do, we asked our broker if he could come in and explain HSAs to employees. We had decided that we would offer people a choice – our regular old Aetna plan, which, surprise surprise, had gone up 30% in price since last year (while every other product and service in the economy except for gas FELL IN PRICE) or an Empire HSA.
Since he never sold an HSA before, he tried to get the Empire point person to come in with him. She was generally hard to get a hold of. But finally, a meeting was set. “We can come in tomorrow”, they said. So much for advanced warning, but we take what we can get.
So when they showed up, she brought someone with her who was more knowledgeable about HSAs than she was…cause she didn’t know squat. I probably know more about HSAs than her.
Generally, the meeting was helpful. But it was more guided by our knowledgeable questions than their ability to put on a great presentation. What I mean is that if we had not asked the questions we asked, I don’t believe they would have done a great job conveying the information that I believe any company, and its employees (the entire staff attended the session), would need answered to make informed decisions about whether an HSA is right for the company, or the individual employee.
What is your company experience? Do you have the support you need to educate employees about HSAs or other options? Are your brokers and agents well informed? If you are a broker, have employers been asking about HSAs?