10/19/2018 Medical Emergencies and Major Illnesses Hit Your Employees’ Pocketbooks—Hard

Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist

Medical Emergencies and Major Illnesses Hit Your Employees’ Pocketbooks—Hard

It’s no secret that the rising costs of healthcare are a persistent concern for both employers and employees. Corporate and individual healthcare consumers are exploring new ways to manage costs through worksite insurance vehicles, various savings strategies and even crossed fingers that a medical-related financial crisis “won’t happen to us.”

Preparing for the inevitable?

Unfortunately, unexpected medical events—and their related costs—happen every day. And they happen to people from every walk of American life. But one thing is for sure: simply having major medical insurance usually isn’t enough to prevent your employees from having problems paying medical bills. If they’re involved in an accident or are diagnosed with a serious health condition, they may be faced with some difficult financial choices that can significantly impact their lifestyles.

Offering supplemental healthcare insurance plans is an increasingly popular and low-cost way for employers to help employees protect themselves against the unexpected. You may already appreciate the value of these plans—and you may already provide your employees with access to some combination of worksite products, from accident to cancer and critical illness coverage. But have you explored the real impact that a serious medical event can have on your employees’ livelihood?

Let’s review the facts:

  • Cancer is second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death in the U.S. and is the leading cause of death in 22 states.1
  • Over 1.6 million new cancer cases are projected to occur in the US in 2017.2
  • Each year, over 720,000 Americans will have a heart attack and more than 795,000 will suffer a stroke. 3,4
  • Four out of 10 people are treated in emergency rooms every year. 5
  • The typical length of a hospital stay is five days—and costs over $10,000. That’s more than two months’ income for the average American family. 6,7

Major medical policies aren’t designed to cover everything. They don’t cover non-medical expenses, for example, and most don’t start paying benefits until the insured meets cost-sharing requirements. Getting diagnosis and treatment for a serious illness or getting into an accident can result in a sudden, unexpected need for cash to cover:

  • Deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments
  • Treatments or care not covered by medical insurance, such as alternative therapies or care received from an out-of-network provider
  • Transportation to and from care facilities
  • Childcare and pet care
  • Household bills like rent, utilities, tuition and loans
  • Lost income due to time off work to recover or care for a family member

Financial consequences, financial facts

Meeting medical and non-medical obligations can be a real challenge for your employees without adequate supplemental insurance coverage, let alone major medical insurance or family savings. Now, let’s take a look at some pertinent findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times Medical Bills Survey:8 

  • 26% of U.S. adults say they or someone in their household had problems paying or an inability to pay medical bills in the 12 months prior to the survey. And more than 62% of these say the person who incurred the bills was covered by health insurance.
  • 66% of those who report problems paying medical bills say the bills were the result of a one-time or short-term medical expense such as a hospital stay or an accident, while 33% cite bills for treatment of chronic conditions that have built up over time. Of this 33%, the most common conditions sited are cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • 31% of those with medical bill problems say the total amount of the bills they had problems paying was $5,000 or more, but 24% of those with insurance reporting medical bill problems struggle with bills less than $1,000.
  • 55% of the insureds who face medical bill problems say they are either just getting by or don’t have enough to make ends meet.
  • 29% say that someone in their household had to take a cut in pay or hours as a result of the illness that led to the medical bills, either because of the illness itself or in order to care for the person who was sick.
  • 75% of those who were insured when the medical bills were incurred say that the amount they had to pay for their insurance copays, deductibles, or coinsurance was more than they could afford.
  • 62% of the insured say they’ve had difficulty paying other bills as a result of medical debt; 34% of the insured say they were unable to pay for basic necessities like food, heat or housing as a result of medical bills.

What these findings show is that medical expenses negatively impact the financials of everyone, even those with insurance. As an employer, you can help your employees ensure their needs are met by offering a comprehensive healthcare benefits package with access to supplementary insurance products that protect their pocketbooks.



1 Heron M, Anderson RN. Changes in the leading cause of death: Recent patterns in heart disease and cancer mortality. NCHS data brief, no 254. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016.
2 Siegel, R. L., Miller, K. D. and Jemal, A. (2017), Cancer statistics, 2017. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 67: 7–30. doi:10.3322/caac.21387
3 Heart Disease Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts/heart-disease-statistics/.
4 Stroke. (2017, September 06). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm.
5 National Safety Council, Injury Facts, 2014
6 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Cost for Hospital Stays in the United States, 2012
7 U.S. Census Bureau, 2014
8 Jan 05, 2016 | Liz Hamel Follow @lizhamel on Twitter , Mira Norton, Karen Pollitz, Larry Levitt Follow @larry_levitt on Twitter , Gary Claxton, and Mollyann Brodie Follow @Mollybrodie on Twitter. (2016, April 12). The Burden of Medical Debt: Results from the Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times Medical Bills Survey - Section 1: Who Has Medical Bill Problems and What Are the Contributing Factors? Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.kff.org/report-section/the-burden-of-medical-debt-section-1-who-has-medical-bill-problems-and-what-are-the-contributing-factors/.

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