HSA employee survey shows that interest in health savings accounts is on the rise

Though it may be a bit premature to declare that health savings accounts (HSAs) are finally in vogue, these saving vehicles—first introduced 2003—are no longer the mystery they once were to the average U.S. employee. HSAs have grown increasingly popular over the last several years after languishing in relative obscurity for over a decade. The total amount of HSA assets has more than doubled in the last four years, while the number of HSAs has done the same in just three. As our previous posts on financial wellness and student debt have illustrated, employee expectations of workplace benefits—in terms of comprehensiveness, flexibility and digital experience—have evolved rapidly during the same period.

CI recently conducted a survey of over 1,200 digitally engaged HSA participants. We found that HSAs represent an increasingly valued (if still not fully utilized) resource—one that benefits administrators would be well advised to educate themselves on. The results of the survey—briefly summarized below—provide a deep dive into how participants perceive, access and use HSAs. Moreover, they offer a snapshot of a workforce with increasingly sophisticated demands and cross-platform fluency.

Corporate Insight participant and employee surveys

The material discussed here incorporates data from several of our recent surveys, including:

  • HSA Participant Survey – Surveyed over 1,200 participants who accessed their HSA digitally in the past 12 months about their digital platform preferences, usage and satisfaction.
  • Financial Wellness Participant Survey – Surveyed over 1,300 U.S. employees currently enrolled in a workplace financial wellness program on their preferences, usage and satisfaction with financial wellness program features, digital platforms and the overall programs.
  • Employee Financial Wellness Survey – Surveyed over 2,200 U.S. employees with workplace benefits through their employer on the following:
    • Availability, importance and participation in numerous workplace benefits, including financial wellness programs
    • Login rates, digital platform usage, and education and advice preferences
    • Impact of COVID-19 and confidence in their financial futures

HSA employee survey reveals people want access to HSAs

While American workers have historically been slow to adopt HSAs, the tide is seemingly turning. Our HSA Survey asked respondents to rate the importance of a dozen benefits, and HSAs ranked as the fifth highest-rated benefit type in the list, with 50% of respondents assigning them top-two box importance (i.e., deeming them either “very important” or “extremely important”) and another 27% rating them as at least “moderately important.” Our survey also indicates that certain demographics tend to value HSAs more. About 53% of Gen X and 55% of Millennials rated HSAs with top-two box importance, as did roughly 63% of individuals with a household income over 100k. The results of our recent Financial Wellness Participant Survey reaffirm this upswing in perceived HSA value. A staggering 81% of respondents rated the importance of HSAs in the top-two box, suggesting that employees taking advantage of financial wellness programs are better positioned to appreciate the value and advantages that HSAs provide.

This chart shows that participants in financial wellness programs rank benefits differently from non-participants.
Financial wellness program participants (left column) are more likely to value HSAs

Employees are happy with their HSAs and HSA platforms

Our HSA employee survey also revealed that respondents tend to be satisfied with their overall HSA experience—more so than they tend to be with other, more traditional financial products and services. Respondents rated their satisfaction with both HSA providers and platforms as relatively high; 48% described themselves as “very satisfied” with their HSA provider, and about half of respondents said the same about each of the digital platforms addressed in the survey.

Respondents’ satisfaction with the HSA experience compares favorably with employees’ satisfaction with financial wellness and DC plan experiences. Indeed, our research shows that about 43% of employees report the same level of satisfaction with their HSAs as respondents did with their financial wellness programs, while only 32% of DC plan participants do so.

This chart shows that HSA participant satisfaction compares favorably with satisfaction with other benefits

HSA participants want (and use) multiple platforms

Our survey shows that the average HSA participant accesses their account far more frequently than the average DC plan participant does. While HSA participants tend to favor mobile sites and apps over desktop sites, the average engagement for all platforms is relatively high. About 47% of participants access their HSA on a mobile platform once a week, while 44% do the same with desktop sites. Though there is the predictable generational divide, with younger participants rating the importance of mobile access more highly than their older counterparts do, very few users rely on a single platform to access their HSA. These figures underscore the importance of providing a consistent digital experience across platforms and show that, regardless of age, employees are increasingly reliant on multiple platforms for access to financial services. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ensure the importance of remote work capabilities and employees develop new strategies to cope with shifting workplace environments, this reliance is likely to grow.

This chart shows that HSA participants log into their accounts more often than other accounts


This chart shows that HSA participants also log into their mobile accounts more often than other accounts

Participants’ educational preferences and confidence levels show that HSAs still have a ways to go

Our HSA survey results revealed several trends suggesting that despite increased enrollment rates, the average employee may not fully understand what HSAs are or how they work. Using familiar, everyday language to make content understandable was respondents’ highest-rated design and usability-related attribute. Moreover, over a third (36%) of respondents reported either moderate, slight or no confidence that they understood how to use their HSAs, follow HSA rules or take advantage of HSA perks. The top-rated educational mediums underscore this trend, as respondents identified FAQs and glossaries as the most desirable content mediums, indicating that foundational knowledge remains a priority for most participants.

These images show examples of FAQ sections on HSAs from UMB Bank and Fidelity

Finally, while more than half of respondents reported checking their account balance within the previous 12 months and 40% reported viewing their account statements, only 13% of respondents reported conducting an investment transaction within the same time window. (While investment thresholds are certainly a factor here, 82% of respondents reported HSA balances above the common $1,000 investing threshold.) This usage pattern points to the possibility that a lack of education or confidence is preventing some participants from taking full advantage of the savings and tax advantages offered by their HSAs. Together, these survey results hint that though HSA enrollment is surging, overall participant comprehension may not be keeping pace. If the workplace benefits industry hopes that HSAs will provide a long-term solution to rising healthcare costs, especially in retirement, it is crucial to educate U.S. employees. The better employees understand these accounts, the more likely they are to enroll, actively invest HSA funds and view their HSAs as not just a way to pay for immediate medical costs, but as valuable retirement savings vehicles.

If you would like to hear more about our recent HSA and financial wellness surveys and research or are looking for insights on how to make a program as impactful as possible, check out our Workplace Finance Research Services for a firsthand look at the authenticated digital user experience across web and mobile journeys from a dynamic and fluid coverage universe of financial wellness, HSA and equity compensation plan providers.

Andrew Denegre

Andrew Denegre is a Senior Analyst on CI's retirement and workplace finance team