Pushing the envelope on benefits innovation

Edison’s light bulb, the bicycle, smartphones, robot vacuums and, my favorite, Lady Gaga’s meat dress. We all know innovation when we see it.

Sometimes a new product or change in design or thinking can spark disruptive change, such as the first iPhone. Sometimes, you end up with New Coke or Cheetos Lip Balm.

Whether in the world of consumer products, finance and yes, even benefits, innovation is an overused word. At Sykes Enterprises and other U.S. firms, corporate leaders are homing in on health insurance as an area for change and innovation, encouraging employees to raise their stakes on contributions to high-deductible plans with a boost from company matches. The hope is that small changes to employee behavior will result in big savings.

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100-watt light bulbs are arranged for a photograph in New York, U.S. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

While not ground-breaking, the move is an attempt by companies facing rising healthcare premiums to entice its employees to deal with high healthcare costs by bulking up their HSAs. Put a different way, use healthcare savings accounts as a kind of retirement account for health expenses in your later years — or as Shutterstock’s Jason Cabrera puts it, the “medical 401(k),” as he told associate editor Margarida Correia.

Also see: 10 things to know about health savings accounts

Innovation and change were top of mind as we featured other characters in the benefits world who are pushing the envelope in different ways.

Benefitfocus’ Misty Guinn got inspired watching her sons play “Fortnite.” Why can’t the addicting nature of the game be applied to open enrollment, she asked? Healthcare consultant Chris Yarn, who goes by his benefits stage name Frank MicDroppa, wants to bring fun (and more eyeballs) to his profile by hamming it up over the topic of healthcare insurance.

Associate editor Caroline Hroncich caught up with Yarn, who dresses up as Frank Sinatra to sing parodies about Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase’s healthcare partnership (to the tune of “Strangers in the Night”), as well as a song about self-funding health insurance (“Fly Me to the Moon”).

While Yarn’s YouTube videos may not garner as much attention as a Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, maybe a new benefits star has been born.

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