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The Latest in Health and Benefits for April 2022

Paytient’s monthly look at major headlines in the health and benefits space. Our roundup for April 2022 includes everything from insights on medical debt in the U.S. to new benefits that could help employees build up emergency savings.

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As a company operating in the health and benefits space, we keep close tabs on interesting headlines and trends. Paytient is focused on helping people better access and afford the care they need, and a large part of that mission involves education.

To help you stay up to date with big happenings, we round up noteworthy headlines in health and benefits every month. Here’s your recap of some of the most interesting content to come across our desks over the past few weeks.

A Closer Look at Medical Debt in the U.S.

Research from the KFF-Peterson Health System Tracker attempts to shed some light on America’s medical debt problem. This analysis looks at data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and aims to look at medical debt at the individual level for anyone reporting more than $250 in unpaid medical bills in December 2019.

The analysis found that about 23 million people owe some level of medical debt, with 16 million of those folks owing more than $1,000 in medical debt. In total, people in the U.S. owe at least $195 billion in medical debt. The study breaks down the SIPP data in several ways, finding that folks in worse health, people with disabilities, Black Americans, and people living in the South are more likely to have significant medical debt.

Read more from the KFF-Peterson Health System Tracker

Americans Are Stressed About Finances — And It Costs Companies

Americans are dealing with a ton of stress at the moment, and a large portion of that stress relates to finances. A survey by John Hancock found that 71% of respondents had experienced stress, depression, or loneliness over the past year. Of those respondents, 58% said their stress stemmed from financial concerns.

At work, 40% of respondents said worries about their personal finances caused them to be less productive. About 66% of workers said they worry about personal finances while on the clock. And all of this fear is costing companies: John Hancock estimates financial stress costs organizations $2,412 per employee in lost productivity and absenteeism. Nearly 90% of respondents said they want their employers to provide financial wellness assistance.

Read more from John Hancock

Workers Look to Employers for Emergency Savings Help

According to a recent poll, Americans are incredibly financially insecure. The survey — led by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Funding Our Future coalition, and Morning Consult — found that 42% of workers feel somewhat or very financially insecure. About 1 in 3 working adults said they would be somewhat or very uncomfortable having to pay a $400 emergency expense; 8% said they couldn’t afford to pay that expense. The survey also found that 14% of respondents had taken money from their retirement savings in the past year.

The same survey found that companies can help alleviate some of this financial stress by offering benefits like emergency savings accounts. While only 21% of workers said their employers provide emergency savings accounts, 60% of respondents said they would be interested in this benefit.

Read more from the Bipartisan Policy Center

White House Moves to Reduce Burden of Medical Debt

The Biden-Harris Administration this month revealed plans to protect consumers and reduce the burden of medical debt. Vice President Kamala Harris announced four main changes as part of the reform effort:

  • Holding medical providers and debt collectors “accountable for harmful practices.”
  • Reducing the role of medical debt in determining whether people can access credit.
  • Helping low-income veterans get their medical debt forgiven.
  • Informing consumers of their rights related to medical billing and collections.

The administration noted that 1 in 3 U.S. adults have medical debt. It is reportedly the largest source of debt in collections — accounting for more than auto loans, utilities, and credit cards combined.

"No one in our nation should have to go bankrupt just to get the healthcare they need," Vice President Harris said. “And that is why our administration is prioritizing this issue of medical debt.”

Read more from the White House

Workers Spend Significant Work Time Stressing About Finances

According to research from SoFi at Work, about 75% of U.S. workers reported feeling stressed about their finances. The company collaborated with Workplace Intelligence to survey about 1,600 HR leaders and employees on workplace financial wellness, with a goal of understanding the role financial well-being plays in the workplace and helping employers determine how certain benefits might impact their organizations.

On average, the study found that employees spend about 9.2 hours every week on their personal finances while at work. And while 84% of employees believe their employers should be responsible for their financial wellness, only 55% feel like that’s the reality. At least 8 in 10 workers say financial well-being benefits would make them more productive, able to focus, satisfied and engaged at work, mentally and physically healthy, and likely to stay with their employer.

Read more from SoFi at Work

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