Everything You Need to Know About Spending Accounts
By: Benefits by Design | Tuesday May 12, 2020Updated : Tuesday May 31, 2022
If you are looking for a benefits plan that provides cost containment AND provides flexibility for employees, look no further than spending accounts.
The spending account family includes two products: a Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) and a Personal Spending Account (PSA), also known as a Wellness Spending Account (WSA). With both products, employers determine a set amount to offer to employees for eligible expenses, providing some cost-containment for the benefits plan, while still providing choice to employees.
What is the difference between a Health Care Spending Account and a Personal Spending Account?
Health Care Spending Account (HCSA)
A Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) provides coverage for eligible health and dental expenses. HCSAs can be a “top-up” to existing Extended Health Care (EHC) coverage or a benefits solution all on its own.
HCSAs are part of an employee’s total compensation package and are non-taxable. As a result, an employee’s taxable earnings do not increase. Secondly, as a bonus, employers will be able to claim the cost of an HCSA (including taxes and administrative fees) on their taxes.
HCSA eligible expenses are determined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Personal Spending Account (PSA)
A Personal Spending Account (PSA), sometimes known as a Wellness Spending Account (WSA), is a taxable benefit. The CRA does not govern PSAs, so employers can choose what items are eligible for coverage. PSAs are used to provide additional health and wellbeing options and “perks” aimed at keeping employees happy and healthy, such as gym memberships, childcare, hobbies, and more!
Shifting Demographics and the Future of Work
Firstly, defined contribution plans — plans that have a defined cost to them — have been increasing in popularity for one big reason: the workforce is changing. There are now five different generations in the workforce, all with different wants and needs from their benefits plan. For instance, Millennials now constitute almost half of the workforce and are projected to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025.
As more Canadians continue to work past the traditional retirement age of 65, Canadian workplaces are becoming more diverse. Traditional, one-size-fits-all benefits plans just aren’t cutting it anymore.
Spending Account solutions allow employees to take control over how they spend their benefit dollars.
Benefits by Design’s Standalone®
Understanding the needs of a changing workforce, Standalone was born out of a desire to help working Canadians gain greater access to the benefits they want and in response to increased demand for choice and flexibility in benefits plans.
Our Standalone product contains HCSA, WSA, or a combination of the two. These spending accounts are open to any incorporated company, with no restrictions on the numbers of employees, hours worked, or a minimum premium requirement.
Minimal eligibility requirements. Standalone is available to any incorporated company, regardless of the number of employees or hours worked. A solution for small businesses who may not yet qualify for traditional, fully insured benefits.
Cost Containment. Standalone allows employers to control costs by setting an allotment per employee.
Tip: For additional cost containment, employers can also determine how quickly employees can utilize their total allotment by setting annual, semi-annual, quarterly, or monthly limits.
Fully Digital Experience. Standalone provides a fully digital experience, allowing quick claims submission, plan member information updates, reporting, and more.
Combine a Spending Account with Pooled Benefits
Canadian employers are becoming increasingly creative with their benefits solutions to accommodate the five different generations in the current workforce. As a result, we’re seeing increased interest in spending accounts in the marketplace at large.
Employers can make plan amendments or additions to their existing benefits plan. By combining Standalone’s Spending Account solution with pooled benefits, they can create a unique plan that has something for everyone!
Spending Account + Group Travel
Group Travel Insurance is often embedded in an Extended Health Care (EHC) benefit. As spending accounts become more popular, there is a need for a travel insurance product that exists outside of the EHC benefit.
Through our group travel solution, AwayCare, Standalone groups can add group travel insurance for a more comprehensive plan.
Spending Account + Employee Assistance Program
It’s critical for employers to have a program in place to help employees deal with life’s ups and downs.
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides access to accredited professional support, resources, and assistance for about the price of a cup of coffee a day.
Spending Account + Critical Illness Insurance
Critical Illness (CI) Insurance covers plan members and their dependents for unexpected serious illnesses from a pre-determined list of conditions. Employees receive a lump sum payment upon the diagnosis of one of the covered conditions.
6 Differences between a Traditional Insurance Plan and a Health Care Spending Account
Spending Accounts: A Solution for Small Business
We’ve found spending accounts particularly popular as a small business benefits solution for a couple of key reasons:
- Firstly, small businesses don’t often have the budget for a traditional insured plan. So they turn to the cost-containment option of a spending account through Standalone. With its pay-as-you-claim structure and its defined cost per employee, businesses can plan for what they’ll be spending on benefits.
- Secondly, many small businesses (3 employees or less) are not able to qualify for traditional insured benefits. Standalone only requires a company to be incorporated. As a result, it opens doors for Canadian businesses that might not otherwise be able to have a benefits plan.
- Thirdly, part-time employees, seasonal employees, and employees in high-risk occupations are eligible for Standalone as well.
- Fourthly, spending accounts are a great way for employers to offer their first employee benefits plan. Spending accounts provide a cost-contained and scalable benefits solution as a business grows in size. To illustrate this, consider the fact that it is far easier (and much preferred by employees) to add new benefits coverage than to take it away.