Health Savings Accounts and Credit Unions: A Success Story for Today’s Environment

Health care reform is heating up in Washington, D.C., and credit unions across the country are joining in the search for effective health care solutions.


Health care reform is heating up in Washington, D.C., and credit unions across the country are joining in the search for effective health care solutions. In a recent webinar hosted by, panelists discussed maximizing health savings account (HSA) portfolios to better serve the credit union community. Marie Gloria, HSA Product Manager for Patelco Credit Union ($4B, San Francisco, CA), and Rhonda Drexler, Financial Services Manger for CoVantage Credit Union ($740M, Antigo, WI), highlighted the importance of education, positioning and competition and provided best practices to actively engage members.

Know the Product
Simply put, HSAs are savings accounts dedicated to medical expenses, and they offer tax advantages to individuals covered by high-deductible health plans. HSAs come in a variety of packages and no single plan will be right for every member. Gloria stresses the importance of being a trusted source of information for credit union members. In addition to keeping up to date on newly released HSA literature, Gloria suggests holding seminars and being available via phone or email to answer members' HSA questions.

Although several credit unions are successful in meeting their market need for health savings accounts, CoVantage – which serves more than 57,000 members in 14 counties across Wisconsin and Michigan – exemplifies the opportunities and challenges HSAs present to the industry at large.

Sixty-five percent of CoVantage's employees participate in an HSA themselves, and they use their personal experiences to illustrate how such accounts pertain to real life. Whether an employee is opening new accounts or structuring car loans, they can listen for trigger words that might open the door to explain the real-world benefits of HSAs.

"The main thing about CoVantage and what we pride ourselves on…is getting to that member and helping them out as much as we can to help them be financially stable," Drexler says. "HSAs are a great way for us to get into that area."

Know the Market
Whether it is through member surveys or conversations in the phone call center, Gloria says a credit union must know the market in order to grow its HSA portfolio. For CoVantage, knowing its market is just one more way it can provide outstanding service to its members.

CoVantage sells HSAs one person at a time through face-to-face experiences taking place in the community. Employees at all levels of the organization – from the Executive Vice President to the Financial Service Representatives – give presentations, and the credit union takes pride in the way it builds relationships and establishes rapport with its members and its community. It establishes connections through activities such as attending employer insurance meetings – regardless of the time of day or night – offering free presentations to medical providers and being present at community, Chamber of Commerce and after-hours business events.

Get out, go to work sites, sit in on insurance meetings, Drexler says, and don't sell an HSA if the member won't use it.

Know the Competition
Be familiar with the services, products and savings that area financial institutions offer, even if on the face such offerings do not appear competitive. For both Gloria and Drexler, the very structure and philosophy of their credit unions gives them a competitive advantage. Gloria says the fees that its competition charges make it easier for Patelco to suggest additional products once members have come on board with an HSA.

Likewise, the number of closed health savings accounts at CoVantage is "few and far between," Drexler says. The primary reason accounts are closed deals more with members leaving their place of employment than the service or products offered by the credit union.

Ultimately, credit unions that are able to maximize HSA portfolios will have a healthier credit union community – both physically and fiscally.

"Every credit union is affected by the delivery of healthcare in America," said GTE Federal Credit Union CEO Bucky Sebastian in September's Callahan Credit Union Report. "Not just because of the cost of insurance premiums…but also by the charge-offs we suffer from our loan portfolios."




Nov. 23, 2009



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