Even though the number of employers offering a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) seems to be on the rise, three out of five employers fail to offer a health savings account (HSA) alongside that benefit, according to “A Crack in the Foundation,” the first set of findings from the fourth annual “Guardian Workplace Benefits Study.”
“This is especially true of businesses with fewer than 50 employees—a segment that accounts for nearly 30% of all working Americans,” the company says.
A health savings account offered in conjunction with an HDHP enables employees to set aside pretax dollars to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses. Employers may also contribute to their employees’ HSA, to provide a base level of funding. However, Guardian’s study points out, even when employees have access to an HSA, many are unsure of how they work or how to fully utilize them. The sponsor can help here by offering assistance when employees plan for and select their HSA options during open enrollment, the study says.
According to Guardian, three in five workers are unable to pay a $3,000 out-of-pocket medical expense. Faced with such a cost, the study found, many have to devise an alternative: Thirty-seven percent would arrange with the provider to pay over time, 34% would put the bill on a credit card, 9% would ask for a loan from friends/family, and 6% would take a bank loan.
Because of rising costs, several employees reported that they did one of the following in the past year: skipped a doctor visit, delayed a recommended procedure or surgery, failed to fill a prescription, or avoided a blood test or X-rays.
“The study reveals a correlation between high out-of-pocket medical costs and delaying or ignoring medical care,” says Dave Mahder, vice president and chief marketing officer of group and worksite markets at Guardian Life. “HDHPs help employers rein in medical costs, but potentially at the risk of higher catastrophic medical and disability claims in the long term.
“Employers offering HDHPs can help employees fund out-of-pocket expenses through health savings accounts and supplemental health benefits, but there’s still room for improvement,” he says.