Recent research reveals that financial wellness and physical wellness are more closely linked than ever.
It goes beyond dollars and cents — financial health, or lack thereof, is affecting Americans’ bodily health with some concerning repercussions.
A new study shows that over half of Americans (54 percent) have delayed medical care in the last 12 months because they couldn’t afford it. And nearly one-quarter (23 percent) have delayed treatment for more than a year for financial reasons.
This means that illnesses and conditions aren’t getting needed treatment, and preventive care — which is vital for maintaining good health and keeping problems at bay — is out of reach for large numbers of Americans. In fact, 30 percent of survey respondents said they delayed annual exams because they couldn’t afford them.
Financial wellness and health
This continues a trend seen in 2017, when Americans’ number one financial concern was healthcare costs. Relatedly, last year the government reported that 44 percent of adults could not cover an unexpected $400 expense. Given that medical bills can reach into the thousands, it’s clear that healthcare costs are a major concern for many Americans, and the inability to cover expenses demonstrates why people would forego the care they need.
What does this mean for employers?
Leadership must recognize the importance of healthcare costs to their employees’ overall well-being. If your company offers a financial wellness program, make sure it addresses managing healthcare costs. Tools such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) can help employees put money aside for both regular check-ups and prescriptions, as well as have a resource to draw upon in case of an emergency medical expense.
Additionally, if your financial wellness program has a low participation rate, investigate the reasons why — it could be focusing on retirement and long-term investing, when your employees may be more concerned about immediate bills and budget shortfalls.
The importance of lowering costs
Employers must also realize that lowering the cost of healthcare is what employees value most in their benefits. We noted this in our 2018 State of Workplace Empathy study, where lower premiums were cited as the most empathetic benefits practice. And a recent survey by PwC reports that one in five employees would forego a pay raise for better healthcare benefits. With the insurance market in a volatile state, lowering employee costs is no easy task for employers, but when the cost of absenteeism from financial stress is factored in, it may make sense to enhance medical benefits packages.
Furthermore, the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true — if employees delay treatment and an illness worsens, or they develop a condition that was preventable with annual care and exams, these treatments become much more costly later on. That’s why helping Americans get the care they need is something that can make us all feel better.
Read more about the importance of financial wellness here.