Does benchmarking inspire change or encourage more of the same?
Trends don’t change overnight; it often takes time to see with shifting mindsets and the adoption of new ideas. Our small sector of the benefits space has seen a slow but steady uptake of spending accounts since we joined the market. A global pandemic, and a global restructuring of priority, accelerated the conversation and brought spending accounts into the limelight as clients look toward an employee-first, value-conscious view of their benefits plans.
As far as benchmarking of group benefits goes, there have been some pretty amazing companies that have come out in the last few years, but we still feel like the information surrounding the spending account is overlooked, unknown or frankly not there.
The problem with benchmarking is by looking at what’s currently in place, you may end up promoting more of the same. The industry pigeon-holes the spending account into a secondary spot – relative only to the other parts of the plan rather than a core piece. The only contemplation in this situation is how much to offer, coming down to a matter of budget rather than value. Therefore, looking at the past and through the eyes of the current industry reports available, we would only see data on spending accounts as a top-up to insurance, not an integral part of the plan. We would miss the clients that are in the midst of implementing individualized benefits, accomplished only through a spending account. We would miss the gender affirmation categories, the increased mental health allowance, and the hybrid work allowances as companies continue to look for ways to support their diverse employee base. Both health and wellness spending accounts have become the solutions that allow for quick implementation and flexibility and can cater to nearly every life situation an employee could find themselves in, notwithstanding catastrophic events.
Of course, benchmarking has its merit – it’s a useful tool to highlight how a benefit plan stacks up. The report can poke holes in the plan and show areas of improvement and opportunity – in relation to status quo and peers. What if others aren’t innovating? Does that mean you shouldn’t either? What one offers, or doesn’t, isn’t necessarily the best plan for another. Looking at the increasing popularity of flex plans in the market— a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t ideal, flexibility is. If we discount the power of the spending account, and narrow-mindedly call them a top-up, we lose the very essence of the offer.
Call them HSAs, LSAs, WSAs or flex plans, we just call them spending accounts and they are here to stay. When you’re looking to bullet proof your benefit offering don’t just look to where they have been used in the past, look to how they will be used in the future.
An advisor recently captured this perfectly when he asked me, “What else can we do?”
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