How Does First Dollar’s HRA Solution Compare With Other Platform Technology Providers?

An overview of what partners need to know about First Dollar's HRA solution.

A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) can be a powerful tool. Its flexibility enables plan designers to target care gaps, and its tax advantages offer needed savings for healthcare expenses. Unfortunately, too many HRA programs fail to reach their promise due to rigid platform technology solutions.

We built the First Dollar Benefit Suite to unlock the promise of HRAs and other health spending benefits. With self-service tools for designing custom programs and documented APIs for every event, partners can build their dream HRA experience. In this article, we share how you can use our infrastructure to offer your dream HRA, compare our approach with others, and provide insights from several industry experts at First Dollar.

How does First Dollar’s approach differ from other platform providers?

We think using and offering benefits (like an HRA) should feel effortless, and we strive to make this possible for our partners through self-service tools and education.

Tools that help your team do more

A friend in the consumer-directed health space recently remarked, "If you've seen one HRA—you've seen one." There's some truth in that phrase. The power of an HRA lies in its ability to be customized, and it’s why we build self-service tools. What's a self-service tool? Consider the following:

  • Depositing your check via a mobile app instead of fighting weekday traffic.
  • Buying your vacation flights via a website instead of calling a travel agency.

Self-service tools enable you to quickly accomplish tasks independently and on your terms. In all our work, First Dollar's product and engineering teams strive to create software and tools that enable you and your teams to do more.

Self-service tools are for admins, too

Most discussions about building self-service tools for consumer-directed benefits start and end with consumers. We believe administrators need to be a part of that conversation. Equipped with better tools, administrative teams can make an even greater impact on the consumers they serve. That's why you'll see First Dollar's focus on administrator needs throughout the First Dollar Benefit Suite, like our Benefit Builder, which enables plan designers to create custom programs without making a service request to their platform administrator. 

Our CEO recently spoke about the concept of self-service tools as panelist at ECFC’s Annual Symposium

Leaning on technology—not employee headcount

Our engineering and product teams create tools that enable our partners to do more. In contrast, many other platform providers depend on their account management teams to customize programs for their partners instead of their technology. As a result, their partners are usually forced to file a service ticket request or send an email to their account management team when looking to make an update to an HRA plan. Both of these options put partners in a queue, delaying the enrollment of new clients and discouraging benefit design creativity. 

Education that drives benefit utilization

Would you give a power tool to someone without teaching them how to use it? Access to tools is just one part of the solution. To unlock the potential of HRAs, all HRA providers (including platform providers) should prioritize offering administrator- and- member-centered education to close knowledge gaps.

We lead with education, whether it's our omnichannel marketing campaigns on how to use an HRA or our knowledge base center with health wallet and HRA FAQs. And with an accessibility score of 97, we also work to ensure everyone has access to their needed healthcare funds. Our benefit utilization rates are double the industry average—people love to use our health wallet.

Offering and using benefits should feel effortless. By designing the right tools and educating users on the why and how, we believe we can help both administrators and members.

Izamar Loredo
First Dollar Director of Product

How can you customize your HRA programs with First Dollar?

One of the most exciting features of our Health Wallet Manager is its Benefit Builder. Partners use the Benefit Builder to create custom health spending benefits (including HRAs) for their clients by configuring existing benefit templates and enrolling participating organizations in the configured template. With this flexibility, partners can quickly expand their HRA offerings and sell and implement employers with less runaround. All without ever filing a service request.

First Dollar's Fertility HRA benefit template
Benefit Builder enables plan designers to create custom HRAs.

With Benefit Builder’s templates, plan designers can create custom HRA plans without re-issuing member cards or filing a service request. It’s just another way that we're giving administrators the self-service tools they need.

Erin Barley
First Dollar Senior Product Manager

How Henry customizes HRA programs with Benefit Builder

Henry is a benefit plan designer, and his sales team has asked him to customize an HRA program designed for fertility treatment costs for a new client. He knows the HRA program should be employer-funded, have a $5,000 funding limit spread out quarterly, include a carryover limit of $2,000, and provide all participants with a virtual and physical card. He wants members to pay the first $1,000 towards the deductible, with the employer paying the remaining deductible amount. After the deductible has been met, the HRA would allocate costs with a cost-sharing model of 80% for employers and 20% for participants up to the maximum allowable annual benefit.

Fortunately for Henry, First Dollar is his platform technology provider. Henry simply logs in to Benefit Builder and:

  • Selects the appropriate boxes for the desired HRA program settings 
  • Enters program information where applicable
  • Adds the HRA plan start date of October 1st
  • Assigns the benefit to the participating organization, and
  • Selects, "Create Benefit Offering."

And voila! Henry has created a custom HRA for the new client. That makes for a happy new client and a happy Henry.

What is First Dollar’s API solution for HRAs, and why does it matter?

Application programming interfaces (APIs) enable technology solutions to talk directly to each other. For partners looking to offer a health reimbursement arrangement, an API solution enables them to:

  • Own the customer experience (e.g., HRA solution embedded on the partner’s portal)
  • Improve efficiency (e.g., admins teams empowered to solve customer issues on their platform)
  • Gain programmatic control (e.g., manage HRA enrollment via our API)

With the on-demand nature of an API, a partner can call our APIs at the most opportune moment rather than uploading files to an SFTP server and waiting for them to get picked up and processed. For HRA program participants, this could mean being issued a virtual card immediately or seeing accepted HRA claim submissions on their Health Wallet in real time.

a virtual card GIF highlighting how enrollees can gain immediate access to their funds through First Dollar's APIs
With First Dollar's APIs, HRA program enrollees can be issued a virtual card immediately upon enrollment.

Seeing is believing

Ask most engineering teams if they believe a vendor has a market-ready API solution, and you'll likely hear a response like "Suuure." From our experience, that skepticism is well warranted.

screenshot of @healthapiguy tweet saying "When they move their api docs behind a contact form = red flag emojis"
Health API Guy is a great follow for Brendan's thoughts on health, technology, and trends. (This is not a sponsored caption.)

From the consumer experience to the administrative workflows and core bank functions, every function in our platform has an API—but you don't have to take our word for it. Here are the three main ways that you can review our documentation on our developer portal:

API Overview: Your engineering team’s go-to guide for understanding how we set up our API and how you interact with it. The API Overview includes breakdowns of our environments, authentication strategies, how to use our API Explorer (see below), pagination strategies, how we handle breaking changes, and our changelog.

API Reference: Browse our documentation organized by function and type. You'll find queries, mutations, objects, interfaces, enums, unions, inputs, scalars, and directives here. And thanks to GraphQL, we automatically generate API references from our schema, ensuring our documentation matches deployed code.  

API Explorer: Explore our GraphQL schema and test queries and mutations against our Sandbox environment. This is a very interactive way to view our documentation and receive real-time feedback.

When evaluating a potential vendor's technology, seeing their technology prowess through strong, transparent documentation and adherence to industry best practices is a signal we will forge a strong, collaborative partnership.

Mike DeWitt
First Dollar Chief Technology Officer

How easy is it to integrate First Dollar’s APIs?

After designing your HRA in Benefit Builder, you can fully enroll members and embed the benefits experience using First Dollar's APIs.

an example of First Dollar's API call to "create benefit"
Partners use First Dollar's documented APIs to fully enroll employer groups and members.

Requiring just six API calls to fully enroll employer groups and members into a suite of benefits, First Dollar partners can integrate via API in only a matter of days with a fraction of the engineering and operational resources compared to our competitors.

The same six API enrollment calls for every health spending benefit

First Dollar's Benefit Builder and APIs are also built for you to design FSAs, HSAs, LSAs, Commuter and Health Rewards benefits, and whatever else you can dream up. When you are ready to enroll members into some or all of these benefits, the same six API calls can get your members up and running with additional benefits, with no added integration effort from your engineering team. Here are the six API calls: Get Benefit Template ID, Create Organizations, Create Benefits Program, Create Benefit, Create Individuals, and Enroll Individuals.

How Henry enrolls participants with First Dollar’s API solution

Henry now wants to enroll the program participants into the custom HRA program he created through Benefit Builder. Fortunately, Henry's team can easily access First Dollar's API documentation to complete the six API calls. Besides shorter implementation timelines, enrolling participants through First Dollar's API solution provides Henry's team with a ton of tangible benefits, including:

  • Short feedback loop. Engineers will know if their API solution worked with an immediate HTTP response from our API endpoints.
  • On-demand execution. Partners can call our APIs at the most opportune moment, like issuing a virtual card upon enrollment or allowing HRA participants to see their transactions in real time. 
  • Future improvements and features. With APIs, we can add additional information to response objects or allow different types of inputs for lookup or modification without breaking the integrating partner's parsers, like we would in a flat-file scenario.

How does First Dollar protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of HRA data?

First Dollar's API integration and cloud-native architecture also helps First Dollar maintain a best-in-class security posture. All data is encrypted in transit and at rest, and First Dollar takes utmost care to maintain the highest of privacy standards. We’ve completed our SOC 2 Type II, an internal controls report capturing how a company safeguards customer data, and we support partners’ compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which governs the safeguarding, usage, and disclosure of protected health information (PHI).

Your health data should only go to the parties that need it. Our system controls and compliance standards help ensure that your protected health information remains secure and private.

Geoffrey Scott
First Dollar SVP, Head of Operations and Risk

What's the First Dollar Benefit Suite?

Our infrastructure powers the “health wallet” for all healthcare spending, acting as a single touchpoint for any consumer healthcare transaction. The First Dollar Benefit Suite includes:

  • Health Wallet: Give your members immediate access to their HRA and any other health spending benefit
  • Health Wallet Manager: Reduce costs and optimize operational HRA workflows with a powerful benefits platform for your team.
  • Health Wallet Platform: Build your dream HRA program to your unique vision with the Health Wallet Platform's APIs and branding tools.
Josh Hostetler

Josh leads content for First Dollar, a fintech company that builds infrastructure for health spending benefits. Before First Dollar, Josh led course creation at Aceable, taught First Grade, waited tables at Olive Garden, and wore many other hats. He misses the breadsticks.