Health Costs Cause Financial Pain: Some Ideas to Help  

Couple with credit card and laptop paying bills online in living room This content is subject to copyright.
Apr 12 2018

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.  

More Mercer posts

About the author(s)
Related products for purchase
Related Solutions
Related Insights
Related Case Studies