As Health Care Costs Bite, Here’s How You Can Help Your Workers

Recent studies have highlighted an alarming trend in American health care: More and more people are struggling with medical bills and many are delaying care due to high costs.

The most recent poll by Gallup found that 38% of those surveyed said they or a family member had delayed care in 2022 due to high costs. That’s up from 26% in 2020 and 2021. The rapid increase occurred in a year where inflation was at a 40-year high.

Last year’s spike in delayed care was the largest over one year since Gallup first began tracking these data more than two decades ago and it illustrates the breadth of the problem, which likely stretches into the ranks of your own employees.

Even if you are providing them with a robust plan, there are often out-of-pocket cost-sharing and deductibles to contend with. For employees in high-deductible health plans, the costs can be steep.

What you can do

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help them reduce their out-of-pocket expenses for health care:

Emphasize the importance of preventative care — The best way to prevent or stave off major health issues is through preventative care, such as going to routine checkups and having blood work done as recommended. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the problem of delayed care and health care providers and patients are still catching up on all that missed care.

But it’s not just regular checkups. Many people are not getting regular care for chronic conditions. Many preventative services are covered with no out-of-pocket cost-sharing, but checkups usually are not.

Depending on the type of plan an employee has, routine and preventative care costs can add up. Some experts suggest creating a cash-assistance fund for workers who may struggle with the costs of those visits.

Highlight digital tools — Digital tools are growing in number, from apps and telehealth options to those that can help your employees manage chronic conditions.

Many insurers and/or providers have apps to help people access care and manage their health. The apps will notify patients when it’s time for checkups or other routine services. These portals typically include telehealth options, which can be a less expensive way to meet with their doctor or a specialist.

On top of that, there are digital tools to help people monitor and manage chronic conditions, like high blood pressure and diabetes — and even rate genetic conditions. They are an inexpensive way to keep a look out for symptoms and changes in vitals that may require a visit with their doctor. Your workers should ask their doctor about any tools that they can be using.

Don’t cut back on health benefits — With the rising health insurance premiums, it may be tempting to offer high-deductible health plans with even higher deductibles. This may keep your premiums where they are compared to the prior year, but it saddles your employees with the potential for even more out-of-pocket expenses.

Urge any employees in HDHPs to sock away funds in their attached health savings accounts for future medical expenses. These accounts are funded with pre-tax dollars and can be saved up for future use. Funds are not taxed when withdrawn, either.

HSAs are portable if the employee changes jobs, and the funds can be invested, much like a 401(k) plan.

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