02/25/2019 Voluntary Benefits can Offset Employees’ Financial Consequences of Medical Emergencies and Major Illnesses

Mathew A. Matarrese, National Vice President of Sales Combined Worksite Solutions

Voluntary Benefits can Offset Employees’ Financial Consequences of Medical Emergencies and Major Illnesses

It’s no secret that the rising costs of healthcare are a persistent concern for both employers and employees. Corporate and individual healthcare consumers are exploring new ways to manage costs through worksite insurance vehicles, various savings strategies and even crossed fingers that a medical-related financial crisis “won’t happen to us.” As competition for talent tights up, it is more important than ever that employers offer an attractive, well-rounded benefits package.

Preparing for the inevitable?

Unfortunately, unexpected medical events—and their related costs—happen every day. And they happen to people from every walk of American life. But one thing is for sure: simply having major medical insurance usually isn’t enough to prevent your employees from having problems paying medical bills. If they’re involved in an accident or are diagnosed with a serious health condition, they may be faced with some difficult financial choices that can significantly impact their lifestyles.

Offering voluntary healthcare insurance plans is an increasingly popular and low-cost way for employers to help employees protect themselves against the unexpected. You may already appreciate the value of these plans—and you may already provide your employees with access to some combination of worksite products, from accident to cancer and critical illness coverage. But have you explored the real impact that a serious medical event can have on your employees’ livelihood?

Let’s review the facts in the U.S.:

  • Cancer is second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death .1
  • The American Cancer Society predicts an estimated 1.8 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 600,000 cancer deaths  in 2019.2
  • 610,000 people die of heart disease every year.3
  • There are 137 million hospital ER visits every year. 4
  • The typical length of a hospital stay is five days—and costs over $10,000. That’s more than two months’ income for the average American family. 5,6

Major medical policies aren’t designed to cover everything. They don’t cover non-medical expenses, for example, and most don’t start paying benefits until the insured meets cost-sharing requirements. Getting diagnosis and treatment for a serious illness or getting into an accident can result in a sudden, unexpected need for cash to cover:

  • Deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments
  • Treatments or care not covered by medical insurance, such as alternative therapies or care received from an out-of-network provider
  • Transportation to and from care facilities
  • Childcare and pet care
  • Household bills like rent, utilities, tuition and loans
  • Lost income due to time off work to recover or care for a family member
  • Financial consequences, financial facts

Meeting medical and non-medical obligations can be a real challenge for your employees without adequate supplemental insurance coverage, let alone major medical insurance or family savings. Now, let’s take a look at some pertinent findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times Medical Bills Survey:7

  • 26% of U.S. adults say they or someone in their household had problems paying or an inability to pay medical bills in the 12 months prior to the survey. And more than 62% of these say the person who incurred the bills was covered by health insurance.
  • 66% of those who report problems paying medical bills say the bills were the result of a one-time or short-term medical expense such as a hospital stay or an accident, while 33% cite bills for treatment of chronic conditions that have built up over time. Of this 33%, the most common conditions sited are cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • 31% of those with medical bill problems say the total amount of the bills they had problems paying was $5,000 or more, but 24% of those with insurance reporting medical bill problems struggle with bills less than $1,000.
  • 55% of the insureds who face medical bill problems say they are either just getting by or don’t have enough to make ends meet.
  • 29% say that someone in their household had to take a cut in pay or hours as a result of the illness that led to the medical bills, either because of the illness itself or in order to care for the person who was sick.
  • 75% of those who were insured when the medical bills were incurred say that the amount they had to pay for their insurance copays, deductibles, or coinsurance was more than they could afford.
  • 62% of the insured say they’ve had difficulty paying other bills as a result of medical debt; 34% of the insured say they were unable to pay for basic necessities like food, heat or housing as a result of medical bills.

What these findings show is that medical expenses negatively impact the financials of everyone, even those with insurance. As an employer, you can help your employees ensure their needs are met by offering a comprehensive healthcare benefits package with access to supplementary insurance products that protect their pocketbooks.

References
1 National Center for Health Statistics. (2017, March 17). Retrieved from cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm
2 Cancer Facts & Figures 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2019.html
3 Heart Disease Facts & Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
4 National Center for Health Statistics. (2017, May 03). Retrieved from cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/emergency-department.htm
5 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Cost for Hospital Stays in the United States, 2012
6 U.S. Census Bureau, 2014
7 The Burden of Medical Debt: Results from the Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times Medical Bills Survey - Section 1: Who Has Medical Bill Problems and What Are the Contributing Factors? Retrieved October 27, 2017, from kff.org/report-section/the-burden-of-medical-debt-section-1-who-has-medical-bill-problems-and-what-are-the-contributing-factors/.

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