Fast technology company communications director Jason Alderman (right) talks to an employee on their first day at the office on March 24, 2021 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
Inflation has pushed household budgets almost to breaking point. As a result, most people limit their spending, even when it comes to health and wellness.
But just as many Americans want to cut costs, US health officials expect a new wave of the pandemic this winter and new study emphasizes the importance of comprehensive health benefits.
While the Biden administration is considering ending the public health emergency over the next few months, many of those who fell ill but survived Covid suffer from persistent health problems, studies show. And now as much as 23 million Americans According to the latest estimates from the US Department of Health and Human Services, they have what is considered long-term Covid.
Open enrollment season is in full swing and this is an opportunity to review your coverage, said Gary Claxton, Senior Vice President of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to national health.
employees spend 18 minutes, on average, looking at their benefits during open enrollment, according to Rob Grubka, CEO of Health Solutions for Voya Financial. “They spend more time deciding what to watch on Netflix.”
But this year brings additional uncertainty, he said. “Due to rising inflation, Covid and prolonged Covid, we are underestimating how different things might look in the future.”
At the same time, according to the Elevate platform, more than a quarter of employees have postponed visits to wellness centers and inspections and consider cost the most important factor when choosing benefits for the next year.
Employees make choices to stay afloat, said Brian Cosgray, CEO and co-founder of Elevate. Unfortunately, some make compromises, such as refusing necessary medical care, which could cause problems in the future, he added.
To balance your overall health and long-term disease risks and financial constraints, Claxton suggests re-evaluating your employer-sponsored health insurance during open enrollment, which typically lasts until early December.
Nearly 159 million Americans rely on employer-sponsored health insurance. Here are four key considerations as the open enrollment season kicks off:
1. Health plans
First, consider what your health insurance costs you.
Annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance — the amount he spends each year on insurance, often divided by 12 monthly payments — average $22,463 this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is slightly more than a year ago.
On average, employees contribute $6,106 to cover the family bonus, and employers take the rest.
However, more workers have deductibles—the amount you pay before insurance kicks in—and that deductible is also growing. In 2022, the average one-time deductible was $1,763, more than double what it was ten years ago.
But “don’t just look at the monthly cost of your health insurance,” Cosgray advised. “Most employers offer multiple health plan options,” he added, such as a high deductible plan with a health savings account or a more traditional PPO.
“If you expect your health care costs to be low next year, a high deductible health plan combined with an HSA can be a good way to save money,” he said. “However, if you have a chronic medical condition in your family and usually get a deductible, the traditional plan combined with [a flexible spending account] can save you more over the course of the year, even if the plan’s monthly cost is higher,” Cosgray said.
“If you’re going to choose a high deductible plan, you should be able to pay the deductible if someone gets sick,” Claxton added. “The plan might be cheaper, but what if you can’t afford to use it?” He noted that most people cannot afford even $500. “If you go to the hospital, the chances of your out-of-pocket expenses being at least $500 are pretty high.”
There are often employer-supplied resources designed to help you choose between benefits offerings, which may include webinars and specialized benefits specialists.
“Many health insurance plans now have great tools to help you manage your choices based on what you expect your health care costs to be,” said Thomas Belmont, head of health and benefits practice at Gallagher.
“It will help you get your bearings.”
2. Medical savings accounts
One way to help with healthcare costs is to use tax credit accounts for medical expenses, in particular, health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts.
In both cases, you use pre-tax money to cover personal expenses, including doctor visits and prescription drugs.
To be able to use HSA, you must be enrolled in a high deductible health plan or HDHP. The fees then go up on a tax-free basis, and any money you don’t use can be carried over from year to year.
“There is an opportunity to save and save efficiently,” Grubka said.
In 2023, workers and employers can contribute up to a total of $3,850 for personal insurance and up to $7,750 for family insurance, with an additional $1,000 contribution for those aged 55 and over.
The Health FSAs have lower contribution limits of $3,050 for 2023, but you also don’t need to have a high deductible plan to be eligible—in fact, you don’t need health insurance at all. subscribe to one. Although you may have to use the money by the end of the year or you will lose it, with a few exceptions.
3. Life and disability insurance policies
To be sure, the pandemic has led to increased awareness of the financial risks associated with critical illness.
Employer-issued life insurance policies are usually an annual salary, often less, but this may be only a fraction of what you need to protect young children or other dependents.
Consider what is right for you and your family, and then consider whether you want to buy additional coverage or additional insurance through a workplace group plan or buy for yourself. an individual term life insurance policy, which many consultants recommend, although this may also require additional medical information, including a physical examination and blood tests.
The same goes for disability insurance, which can help replace part of your paycheck if you get sick and can’t work.
There are two main types: Short-term disability usually replaces 60% to 70% of your base salary, and insurance premiums are often paid by your employer. Long-term disability, which usually occurs after three to six months, usually replaces 40% to 60% of your income.
Other voluntary benefits offered by the employer may provide additional protection, including hospital reimbursement insurance, critical illness insurance, and accident insurance.
“As we move into next year and additional financial challenges, make sure you protect your income,” Belmont said.
4. Health Benefits
As a result of the pandemic, many other companies have expanded wellness offerings among health insurance options to help employees deal with work stress and personal issues.
This year, for example, more than a quarter of large employers have added mental health providers, either in the office or virtually through teletherapy to their plan’s networks to expand access, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“We’re in a real crisis in terms of emotional well-being,” Belmont said.
He advised employees to take full advantage of services provided by employers, often free of charge, including financial coaching, emergency savings support, stress management classes and additional child care.
As prices rise, more Americans are struggling financially, Belmont says, “one of the most underutilized benefits is financial advice.”