Help employees handle out-of-pocket health care costs

3 minute read

“…For some people…the Affordable
Care Act is becoming the Unaffordable Care Act,” writes Richard Eisenberg, a
contributor to Forbes.com. In a recent article,
Eisenberg explains that while fewer people are now uninsured, more
are underinsured. Why? Because employers are increasingly requiring employees to sign up for high-deductible
health plans, also known as consumer-driven health plans.

Unfortunately, “employees in
high-deductible plans are seeing huge increases in out-of-pocket costs and some
are trimming medical care as a result.” Eisenberg cites a Commonwealth Fund report1 that says 44 percent of
underinsured adults reported not getting needed medical care in the past year
because of the cost. The report also found that 41 percent with deductibles of
$3,000 or more reported problems paying their medical bills or were paying off
medical debt.

How
high-deductible plans work

Consumers who elect HDHPs pay
lower premiums but have higher deductibles, which they cover using the money
they place in tax-deferred medical savings accounts such as health savings
accounts or health reimbursement arrangements.

Employers who offer HDHPs save
on health care costs, and by being conscientious about preventive care and
medical procedures, employees may save, too. But even savvy consumers who
understand what they’re getting into when they enroll in an HDHP may not
anticipate or be able to cover the out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered
by HDHPs. In 2015, 52 percent of employees reported having less than $1,000 to
pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with unexpected serious illnesses or
accidents.2


Employees
come clean about their HDHP experiences
3

While high-deductible plans do
work for some, roughly half of workers (52 percent) with HDHPs at least
somewhat agree they regret choosing them. Even more bleak: 59 percent at least
somewhat agree they were financially detrimental to themselves and/or their
families. Both numbers are up from 2014.

Still, many will select a
high-deductible plan again, some because it’s the only employer-sponsored
insurance option available, some because cost is the driving factor for plan
selection. Forty-six percent of employees say the amount of monthly premium or
the coinsurance they have to pay for health care services is the most important
factor when choosing their major medical insurance each year.3


Help
ease employees’ financial burdens

If your company offers or is
considering offering an HDHP, find out how you can help employees offset
out-of-pocket health care costs
.

One tactic to consider is
offering voluntary insurance. Policies such as accident and critical illness
complement HDHPs because benefits are paid directly to policyholders, allowing
them to use the money to help with out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles,
medical procedures and prescriptions, and nonmedical expenses such as rent,
child care and other bills that can accumulate when a worker is hurt or sick
and can’t work.

1The Problem of Underinsurance and How Rising Deductibles Will Make It
Worse: Findings from the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey,
2014.

The Commonwealth Fund. Accessed July 27, 2015.

2 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report,
conducted by Research Now Jan. 26 – Feb. 11, 2015, among 1,977 benefits
decision-makers and 5,337 employees at U.S. companies with at least three
employees.

3 2015 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey, conducted
by Lightspeed GMI June 23 – July 2, 2015, among 2,000 adults ages 18 and older
who are employed full or part time in the US at a company with three or more
employees.