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October 24, 2021

Implications of Deferred Care on Your Budget and on Employee Health

By Lindsey Holman

Throughout the pandemic, many normal health care activities were put on hold. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2020 Health Tracking Poll, about half of adults (52%) reported that they or family members delayed medical or dental care due to the pandemic.

Deferred care is not just an issue for individuals; it’s poised to have a big impact on employers – affecting budgets, productivity, and most importantly, employee health.

We know getting preventive health care is one of the most effective ways to maintain our overall health and well-being. When that care doesn’t happen regularly, the impact goes beyond the individual and can affect an entire organization. Typically, we see:

  1. Higher Claims
    When illnesses or conditions aren’t diagnosed early, they can result in higher claims costs in the long term. Already, we’ve heard from industry colleagues that some self-insured organizations have had to tap into their stop-loss coverage due to a steep increase in claims. Because Portico leverages the collective strength of our large member pool, we are able to absorb increased claims.
  2.  

  3. Lower Productivity
    When employees don’t get the care they need, their health can suffer – negatively affecting productivity and increasing absenteeism. In a 2019 survey of 147 million workers, the Integrated Benefits Institute found illness-related lost productivity cost U.S. employers $575 billion – and that was pre-COVID.
     
  4. Worsening Employee Health
    When a diagnosis for a serious condition is delayed or a chronic condition is left untreated, treatment can become much harder, and outcomes can be much worse. As an employer, you can take steps to mitigate the effects of deferred care. With annual enrollment upon us, now is the perfect time to encourage employees to take care of their health.

What You Can Do About Deferred Care:

Short-Term Tactics

Encourage Preventive Care

Getting preventive care is one of the best ways to catch conditions early, before they become more serious and harder to treat. Remind employees about the preventive services and screenings covered under their health plan, typically at no out-of-pocket expense to them. They may not realize how much is covered, or which screenings are important to have at specific ages. To help you communicate this message, we’ve created a printable checklist that you can hang in breakrooms or email to employees.

Promote Your FSA or HSA

If your health plan offers an FSA (flexible spending account) or HSA (health savings account), then your employees have access to income tax-free dollars to spend on health services and products. Because FSA balances must be spent on qualified purchases within the plan year, it’s known as “use it or lose it.” Encourage your employees to use it! Employees should review their account balances and make any needed appointments, fill prescriptions, or buy covered personal care items to spend down that money. You can also share this FSA approved expenses ideas list with your employees to help them get the care, medicine, and products they need to live healthier lives.

Long-Term Strategies

Provide Telehealth Options

Not everyone is comfortable with or able to receive in-person primary care easily. Telehealth options have grown during the pandemic, and we believe they’re here to stay. By offering your employees on-demand, digital health care resources, you help break down many of the barriers impacting access to care. For Portico plan members, text-based primary care through 98point6® has allowed them to continue receiving care throughout the pandemic.

Offer Onsite Care

Not all health care can be conducted through a computer or an app, but even during non-COVID times, much of our population may find it difficult to get to the doctor. The reasons range from geographic location to lack of time or transportation. That’s why you may want to consider bringing care directly to your employees with onsite clinics, diagnostic services, or screenings. For example, through Quest Diagnostics, Portico offers onsite biometric screenings, which check baseline indicators for health and well-being. Based on the findings, employees then receive recommendations for needed care.

The Takeaway

No single person or organization can solve the problem of deferred care, but together we can help turn the tide. As an employer, you can enact the tactics and strategies outlined above. More importantly, you can encourage and create flexibility and time within your workplace for employees to seek care – because when employees don’t get the care they need, we all pay the price.

Deferred Care Communication Tools

To help you mitigate the effects of deferred care, we’ve created communication tools to use during annual enrollment season and beyond. Download these resources below:

Download employee email (preventive care)
Download preventive care checklist
Download employee email (FSA)
Download FSA approved expenses ideas list

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Lindsey Holman

Lindsey is the director of product management at Portico, overseeing health, retirement, survivor, and disability programs and products. Passionate about financial wellness, Lindsey works to provide Portico members with programs and products that encourage financial literacy so that they can make fiscally-sound decisions for their own well-being. Lindsey is driven by the challenge of matching members’ evolving needs with solutions that address those needs in a way that’s personalized and cost-effective.

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