When faced with high deductibles, more women with breast cancer are postponing getting the care they need, according to a recent New York Times article, which profiles a woman named Pam Leonard who put off going to get a lump in her breast looked at for weeks because she feared the cost of both her deductible and medical bills.
A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Clinical Oncology supports this, finding that women enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) experience delays in diagnostic breast imaging, breast biopsy, early-stage breast cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy initiation (by an average of seven months). Dr. J. Frank Wharam, a Harvard researcher and one of the study’s authors, told the Times that unlike people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, women diagnosed with breast cancer are usually not prepared for the significant expenses associated with it.
Unexpected healthcare costs are a significant concern
WEX Health’s new Clear Insights report supports this; a quarter of our survey respondents said they forgo healthcare services all the time or often due to associated out-of-pocket expenses. It should also come as no surprise that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed are somewhat or very worried about unexpected out-of-pocket costs of current healthcare needs or illnesses, and of those people, nearly half are also worried about the cost of healthcare in retirement.
HDHP plan participants feel they make smarter health decisions
More than three-quarters (82 percent) of those who participate in HDHPs told us they either somewhat or strongly agree that managing their health savings account (HSA) helps them make smarter health decisions.
HSAs provide relief for some
The primary reason our survey respondents enrolled in an HSAs in addition to their HDHP was to save for future healthcare needs (36 percent) and to have an ability to save for out-of-pocket and/or unexpected medical costs (29 percent). If faced with an unexpected health cost of more than $1,000, a third of the respondents with HDHPs say they would use their HSA account.
Education is key: Employees need help figuring out how much money to set aside
Since our survey respondents said they could use help figuring out how much money to set aside for their healthcare expenses, our report also called employers to help their employees set and achieve their financial goals with financial planning and management tools. For example, employers can gauge their employees’ capacity to pay for out-of-pocket expenses at any given time by viewing their overall Health Financial Viability Index on the WEX Health Cloud Employer Portal. And using the HSA Healthcare Savings Goal and Tracker, employees can gain more control over their healthcare finances. The Investment Dashboard, which is available on the WEX Health Cloud Consumer Portal, also makes it easier for workers to track their HSA investments. And since some workers are new to HDHPs and the stress that can accompany unpredictable out-of-pocket expenses, employers may choose to provide a safety net by enabling HSA Advance functionality that allows employees to borrow against future HSA balances to cover unplanned expenses.
To learn more about our 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights report findings, register here for our upcoming 30-minute webinar on Tuesday, June 12, at 1 p.m. Central Time. We’ll be sharing calls to action based on the types of experiences and communications employees expect and prefer as they work to better manage their healthcare benefits and expenses.