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Bret Brummitt9/5/22 9:05 AM4 min read

Low Cost High Impact of Adding FSA and HRA Plans


Add in a High-impact Plan with Low Admin Cost….Think FSA or HRA

Employee Benefits are supposed to deliver value that an employee couldn’t easily re-create on their own.

If you think in terms of only “products” that you can purchase for your workforce or product they can purchase for themselves with you as the conduit to those products, then you’ve probably relegated cash-based solutions to the back-burner.

But, these are easy strategies to evaluate early, make quick decisions about, and even pivot those decisions later, if you must, after you’ve made the stressful big-ticket decisions. And you can implement these solutions in a heartbeat.

We’ve seen employers adding FSA and Dependent Daycare plans at a rapid pace.

With the rapid pace acceleration of job hopping and a highly competitive labor market, we’ve seen companies that delayed or dismissed these options move them way up on their priority list.  And rightly so, with the low cost for entry and low liability in risks.  Heck, once you calculate the savings, in some cases companies may come out at a zero cost benefit to their bottom line while making a huge impact on their employee’s life.

Let’s start with the Dependent Daycare example.

This cash-based account is one that is 100% funded by the employee through payroll deductions. And since this particular account can only be accessed by the employee after their funds have been withheld, there is no outlay in cost to the employer other than a monthly admin fee. And the good news about those fees is most administrators only charge a monthly fee for those who enroll.  In essence, you can offer the plan to 100 employees, and if only one person enrolls, you only have to pay the fee for one employee per month.  And the great news for the employee, they can now pay for those daycare expenses will Pre-Tax dollars, which many can desperately use with the rising cost of daycare or after-school care programs that their children are enrolled in.

Now, for the traditional FSA or Flexible Spending Account.

This is the program that everyone calls the use it or lose it account.  In short, an employee pledges a dollar amount to have withheld over the course of the year, and you, the employer, will front any dollars up to the total annually elected amount at the time of a claim. So if a claim comes in for $600 and your employee has only contributed $300 through payroll deductions, you front the $300 difference, and the employee will still pay you back through the already scheduled payroll deductions.

This plan does carry a little more risk, as any employee that terminates is not liable to pay back any funds that were used (advanced) beyond what has already been withheld from their prior paychecks. But, as an employer, if you have employees that don’t use their full elections, those funds can help offset this expense.

And, again, this can be big savings for the employee. Imagine paying an $800 medical bill with $800 of pre-tax dollars, or trying to pay that same bill with only $640 of those same dollars and needing to work an extra 8 hours to make up that deficit due to paying the same expense with post-tax dollars.

Fix a benefit deficiency with an HRA.

This cash-based benefit can be a maze of really fun “what-if” questions.  But, we are talking about solutions that we can fix easily with cash versus ramping up insurance coverage for everyone on your plan and their dependents.

An HRA or Health Reimbursement Account is access to an employer’s money for a set of specified expenses.

Sometimes you may want to use this strategy to fix the burden of a large health plan deductible, by setting it up a “backend HRA”.  This is actually something we do here at Generous Benefits.  Our core health plan has a $3,500 deductible, but we have paired it with an HRA to buy down the $2,000 on the back end of the deductible.  In this scenario, our employees are only responsible for the first $1,500 of deductible expenses.

But you can be more creative than just deductible or co-insurance expenses with an HRA account.  Here are a couple of examples we see our clients use:

  • A Dental & Vision only HRA where the company agrees to cover up to $750 of expenses.  Then the employees can stack a General Purpose FSA of their own dollars to go beyond the coverage of a typical Dental Plan.
  • A mental health HRA.
    • One of our clients wanted to fix the “not enough providers in our area accept insurance” issue that is all too common.
    • Their HRA has a $200 per month account where employees can use their HRA to cover counseling, psychiatry visits, and online mental health programs

There are a few other uses of a Health Reimbursement Account that are tied directly to your health plan.  These arrangements need to be thought out strategically with your final Health Plan’s benefit design. You don’t have to sketch them out right now but think in terms of an Incentive plan for choosing certain providers based on price and quality as a means of steering your employees to keep the claim expenses lower on your health plan today in an effort to curb or reverse your health plan’s renewal increase next year.


Bret Brummitt

In 2019, Bret launched Generous Benefits, leveraging 20 years of experience in Employee Benefits. His mission is to transform communities through innovative benefits solutions. Bret envisions benefits beyond traditional offerings, aiming for a lasting impact by stretching, tailoring, and curating packages. He coaches insurance agencies with Q4intelligence, actively participating in communities like Health Rosetta and the Free Market Medical Association. Based in Austin, he balances his professional pursuits with running alongside Gilbert's Gazelles and playing baseball with the Austin Blue Jays.

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