by Lisa Goldkamp
It’s safe to say that, in 2018, more women are tuned in and standing up to try to make a difference in healthcare and beyond. On the heels of a U.S. midterm election where a historic number of women ran for office and won and where healthcare was the top issue for voters (per exit polls), all signs point to women taking an active role on issues that are not only important to their family’s financial and physical health, but to the healthcare issues that impact our country.
As the primary coordinator of healthcare for my family, I understand why this issue is on the minds of Americans. What I didn’t realize was that healthcare expenses are disproportionately weighing on women. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey earlier this year found that mothers are considerably more likely to manage their children’s health than fathers, and our own 2018 Clear Insights report found that women are more concerned than men about unexpected out-of-pocket healthcare costs as well as family finances overall. I always assumed that my interest in our family’s healthcare coverage and in ensuring we have available funds in our HSA account to pay our medical bills was uniquely related to my career experiences, not my gender.
In light of this and since we’re now actively in open enrollment, and the cost of healthcare is on everybody’s mind, I have a few tips to share with other women who are also managing or influencing their family’s healthcare decisions.
1. Give yourself plenty of time to evaluate the benefits plans your employer offers.
It’s very likely that your employer is offering at least one plan that would save you money on taxes by allowing you to pay for healthcare with pre-tax expenses. During open enrollment, we’ve found that 75 percent of consumers spend less than an hour evaluating their employer’s different healthcare options, but I recommend that you take all the time you need (likely more than an hour) to do your research on what’s best for your family in the year ahead.
2. Be realistic about what your family’s upcoming healthcare needs are.
It’s easy to want to just look away from medical expenses that are on the horizon, but oftentimes we do have some advance idea of what’s coming. A couple of years ago, I knew that both I and one of my children needed a surgery, and was comforted by the fact that the funds we’d been accruing in our health savings account (HSA) were there to cover both surgeries. For that reason, our family didn’t have to feel the pain of these two substantial medical expenses—to the extent where my husband didn’t even realize, until I let him know, that we had spent thousands of dollars out of pocket on the surgeries. It’s important to estimate what you know, or suspect, your family might realistically spend on medical bills in 2019, and arm yourself with that info as you’re selecting a plan during open enrollment.
3. Leverage accounts that set aside money incrementally so you don’t have to grapple with a big medical expense all at once.
Women are significantly more likely than men (43 percent vs. 20 percent) to use their HSA account to pay unexpected healthcare bills greater than $1,000, according to the Clear Insights survey. Men, meanwhile, are more likely to put unexpected medical bills on a credit card, indicating that more women have already realized the value of an HSA for setting away and accumulating money in smaller chunks so that they’re fully prepared when larger expenses arrive. HSAs are also valuable because the funds roll over indefinitely from year to year, so that you can either use them for immediate healthcare expenses or even on into retirement.
4. Imagine having to choose low cost over the best care for your family.
My kids are avid consumers of healthcare, and last month my three-year-old took a dive into the corner of our bedframe and was bleeding profusely from a gash in his forehead. Because our HSA funds had been quietly accumulating and were there when we needed them, I was able to take a moment in the midst of the chaos to decide whether we should take him to an urgent care facility, where the cost would be less but the quality of care might also be less, or to the children’s emergency room I knew and trusted. Since it was a facial laceration, I wanted to be sure he got stitches from someone highly experienced treating small (and adorable) faces. Fortunately, based on the cushion we’d built up, I was able to make a conscious decision to take him to the ER and I didn’t have to have to panic about how are we going to be able to afford this? Instead, I was able to focus on my son.
At WEX Health, we’re proud to see women take an active role in the issues and concerns related to healthcare at home and in public policy, and we’re excited to have a role in solutions that can assist families with their unique needs. We encourage women to seize this moment, during open enrollment, to ensure that you’re taking advantage of the spending accounts that can help save you money and give you peace of mind you need to keep on making the best decisions for yourself and your family in 2019.
Vice President of Partner Development and Sales Solutions at WEX Health
As the Vice President of Partner Development and Sales Solutions, Lisa leads the Pre-sales Enablement and Partner Development teams. Lisa strives to ensure every Partner, whether sales distribution or administrative, has the tools to succeed and grow their business through their partnership with WEX Health. Lisa and her team members consult with prospective and current partners as deep technology and solutions experts regarding how the WEX Health offerings match up with their specific needs. Since joining our team in 2005, Lisa has worked with hundreds of partners as they have evaluated our solutions. She is a passionate member of our community who frequently presents at industry events and has used her technology and healthcare expertise to help WEX Health and our partners optimize their growth potential.
Prior to joining WEX Health, Lisa was a sales executive for a national IT training company, which is where she developed a passion for utilizing technology to solve problems and create new business opportunities.