Out of Pocket Health Costs Could Lead Some to Dip into Retirement Savings

Medical bills are hurting the financial wellness of employees, particularly younger workers, a survey finds.

With deductibles continuing to climb, many Americans who have health insurance through their employers, particularly younger workers, are struggling when it comes to out-of-pocket medical expenses, according to a survey from Securian Financial Group.

Nearly four in 10 workers on employer-sponsored health plans are personally experiencing or know someone who is having financial difficulty due to medical bills. More than half (52%) of Millennials on a health plan through their employer are personally struggling or know someone who is struggling to pay medical bills.

According to the survey, 28% of employees with health insurance through work facing an out-of-pocket expense of $5,000 or more would use their personal savings to pay rather than other means, including a health savings account (8%) or supplemental group insurance (7%). However, a majority of respondents said they do not know how they would pay (21%), or that they would need to rely on credit cards (12%), a loan from their 401(k) (7%) or family/friends (4%), their tax return (5%), or by selling/pawning a personal possession (2%). Four percent said they would not pay at all.

While solutions for combating unexpected medical expenses are available, most workers do not know about them. The survey found that fewer than half of Americans with health insurance through work (44%) are aware that many employers provide supplemental group insurance options to help employees pay for out-of-pocket expenses and other costs associated with an accidental injury, hospital stay or critical illness.

Securian’s survey was conducted online by KRC Research from June 8 to June 12, 2017. A total of 1,010 survey respondents answered an initial screener question on the source of their health insurance. The rest of the survey was answered by a base of 573 respondents who participate in a health insurance plan provided by their employer or their spouse’s employer.