Taking on credit card debt. Getting a weekend job. Delaying medical care. These are just some of the desperate measures employees resort to as deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses outpace their budgets.
In a 2022 survey by Deloitte, 28% of respondents said they feel less prepared to pay for care than in the previous year. What may have been sustainable two years ago is increasingly challenging for employees to afford due to inflation on the rise.
High deductibles can create barriers to care – which can lead to big problems for employers if employees become sicker, more stressed, and less productive in their jobs.
Unfortunately, many employees may keep quiet about these challenges, leaving decision-makers unaware that one root cause of productivity and retention issues started in their benefits offering.
6 warning signs that high deductibles are creating barriers to care
As costs are set to rise over the next few years, how do you know if your employees are struggling with these costs, and what can you do to ensure they can afford the care they need? Here are six red flags to look for.
1. Employees avoid early treatment
When costs become an issue, early treatment is one of the first things to go. Skipping these appointments can lead to serious issues down the road. Look for trends in healthcare utilization data to identify a downturn in acute care. It's one of the earliest warning signs and provides an opportunity to throw your employees a lifeline.
2. Unexpected absences rise
When employees can’t afford to go to the doctor, an illness that was once no big deal can last longer or become a serious health issue.
A quick round of antibiotics. A critically-timed dose of steroids. Skipping the doctor means missing out on these routine treatments, which can cause illnesses to worsen and employees to miss work more frequently or more days in a row. This in turn decreases productivity and impacts morale.
3. Health insurance enrollment decreases
If high deductibles and premiums become a long-term challenge for employees, they’ll start to question the value of participating at all. They may opt out of your company-sponsored health plan completely. Of course, with no health insurance, employees are in an even worse position when they need to seek care.
4. Employees ask about financial assistance
As every HR leader knows, you don’t always have to guess when employees are struggling, because they’ll tell you directly. If you start getting more inquiries about financial assistance programs, discounts, or coupon programs to help lower out-of-pocket healthcare costs, it’s clear that your team is asking for more support.
Consider offering additional programs that can be introduced mid-year, like prescription discount programs. But also take these inquiries as a sign of a deeper problem with your core health plan offering that might require bigger changes in the next plan year.
5. Employee engagement drops
Stressing over medical bills takes an emotional toll — plain and simple. Employees are unlikely to be enthusiastic about lunch and learns or team building activities when they’re worried about financing their child’s healthcare.
Decreased engagement can be a symptom of many issues in the workforce, but if it’s coupled with any of these other warning signs, a link back to your health plan may start to emerge. Stay curious and listen to your employees with an open mind.
6. Turnover increases
Your employees know that opting out of health insurance altogether isn’t a great option. So when costs become prohibitive, they’ll start looking for an opportunity to jump ship in favor of a company with better benefits and lower deductibles.
Losing employees impacts productivity and morale — and results in significant replacement costs. Increased turnover is another “could be anything” symptom, but conducting exit interviews can help you identify whether your benefits package is partially to blame.
Decrease the barriers to care for your employees
When employees struggle to afford healthcare, it’s a business issue and a people issue. It leads to poor business results and health outcomes for employees. If you identify these warning signs, it’s time to act ASAP.
If you have a benefits broker, brainstorming together is a great place to start. Overall, decreasing the barriers to care for your employees is crucial. Paytient can help. Offering a Health Payment Account for your employees is a whole health solution that allows them to pay out-of-pocket costs over time, without fees or interest.
Stay vigilant for these six red flags, be prepared to take action if concerns emerge, and empower your employees to pay for care now.