The last 18 months took employee compensation from the tips of everyone’s tongues to the negotiation table as the pandemic threw employee benefits, healthcare, and certainty about the future into limbo. Then, as the lockdowns set in, so did furloughs.
In October 2021, it’s common to see headlines about the “Great Resignation” and ever larger strikes against employers who expect too much and pay too little. In the middle of it stands Benefit Resource (BRI) to help employers navigate the evolving employee-benefits landscape.
According to VP Becky Seefeldt of BRI, 40% of employers surveyed by BRI say employees’ needs have changed as a result of the pandemic. Alongside physical health, more and more employers say mental health and well-being has become a top priority. Employees are also clamoring for diversity equity inclusion.
The pandemic shifted many jobs to remote work so employees are no longer confined to their geographic area and feel free to pursue better jobs wherever they are.
“There are so many options for employees that the employers must become more competitive with their benefits packages in order to retain their talent,” Seefeldt says. “Yet times are tight for employers too. Still, there are plenty of options available to small and medium-sized businesses looking to adapt. We look at it holistically.”
There’s a growing popularity for the types of specialty accounts offered by BRI, which has become an industry-leading provider of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs), and staff card technologies that give employees access to their benefits on the go.
For employees, BRI provides a decision-support tool called BRI Insights to walk them through the offerings and estimate their total costs in 15 minutes. For employees interested in long-term savings, a HSA or HRA is ideal. For employees who need more flexibility, BRI offers General or Limited Flexible spending accounts.
“The goal is convenience for both employer and employee,” Seefeldt says. “HSAs have two main parts: a savings account, and a high-deductible health insurance plan. HSAs allow employees who are covered by a compatible plan to save money in a Health Savings Account to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses – and the best part is it’s all tax-free.”
Funds deposited in the account are tax-free, funds grow tax-free, and they can be used to pay for eligible medical expenses tax-free. Employers can match contributions to the HSA up to the contribution limit imposed by the IRS.
Employees take advantage of their HSAs with BRI’s ‘Beniversal Card,’ a prepaid-Mastercard that can be used to purchase medical products and services. Of course, employees can also move money from their personal accounts to their HSA, and even pay medical bills, all online.
“For the employer, it’s convenient and cost-effective to hire BRI to administer their employee benefits. Despite the sky-high unemployment, and the scores of workers who were furloughed during the pandemic, it’s remarkable that the number of people enrolled in healthcare stayed relatively stable,” Seefeldt says.
What protected workers during the last 18 months was COBRA, which allowed workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to continue using their employee-sponsored healthcare plan.
“Some clients thought about administering COBRA by themselves, but it exhausts so much time and so many resources that it was more expensive than hiring BRI to manage it for them,” BRI CEO Jason Hall says.
BRI’s benefit’s accounts gives employees more flexibility and greater access to their money and benefits on the go. Seefeldt explains that for employers, “it’s not enough to simply offer benefits, but it’s crucial to help employees understand how to take advantage of them.”
She has made Health Savings Accounts her career since before Health Savings Accounts even existed. She was the marketing director for HSA Bank for two years before HSAs became written into law. She’s been at BRI for the past decade. She also serves on the board of directors for ECFC, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for healthcare consumerism and expanding employee benefits programs on a tax-advantaged basis.
Seefeldt has driven the rapid growth of HSA Bank’s assets from $50 million in 2002 to nearly $1 billion in 2010. Forbes recognized Seefeldt’s contributions to the growth of HSAs in 2021 by accepting her as a member of the Forbes Business Council, an invitation-only council of respected leaders and executives based on the depth and diversity of experience in leadership, management, customer engagement, technology & growth.
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