Health Costs Cause Financial Pain: Some Ideas to Help

A recent study proves something we have known all along: Medical expenses are unaffordable for many and have an impact in individual finances. Researchers at the University of Chicago surveyed over 1,300 adults. Here are a few of the findings:


30% report difficulty paying for basic necessities (food, heat, and housing) due to medical costs

36% say they have had to use up all or most of their savings

32% report borrowing money or increasing credit card debt

41% say they decreased contributions to a savings plan because of health care expenses

This is troubling for employers because it means plan members may forgo needed care -- which could lead to bigger health issues later. To that point, 40% of respondents say they skipped a recommended medical test or treatment in the last 12 months due to cost, and 32% were unable to fill a prescription or took less of a medication because of the cost.

So what can employers do to help their employees maximize their benefits and minimize out of pocket costs? Here are a few tips to share with your employees and their families:

  • Take advantage of preventive services covered at 100%. For example, get a flu shot so you are less likely to get sick.
  • Use in-network providers for the lowest possible out-of-pocket expense.
  • Consult with a nurse for free by calling the nurse-line for a consultation before scheduling an appointment with a physician; it could save you the cost of an office visit
  • Many plans include a telemedicine benefit. The cost of a telemedicine visit is usually around $40-$50, and can be scheduled at your convenience via phone or video chat.
  • Investigate "convenience care” clinics in your area. Located in stores like Target, CVS, and Walgreens, they offer a limited number of services at a lower cost than urgent care or a physician office visit. 
  • When your doctor recommends a prescription drug, ask how much it costs and if there is an over-the-counter or generic option. Check a few different pharmacies for the best price. 
  • If a prescribed drug is very expensive and you have not used it before, ask whether you could have a smaller number of pills at first to be sure it works. Check to see if there are patient assistance programs to help defray the cost.
  • Shop around for services and tests. A variety of tools exist to support comparison shopping; check with your insurance company for help.
  • Some employers offer indemnity coverage -- policies that will pay a set dollar amount when you have an accident or are hospitalized. These low-cost coverages can provide peace of mind for those concerned about covering expenses before they meet their health plan’s high deductible.
  • If you’ve moved to the high-deductible plan from a more expensive plan, take the savings from lower paycheck deductions and deposit them (tax-free!) in a health savings account. That way you will have some money set aside to help pay for care before you meet the deductible. Many employers will help fund your HSA. 
  • Take advantage of any opportunities to earn dollars for your HSA by participating in healthy activities like biometric screenings.  
Tracy Watts
by Tracy Watts

Market Business Segment Leader

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