Making phone calls to clear up a medical bill is not usually an enjoyable or easily accomplished task. Between the undecipherable billing codes, long call wait times and stringent processes, the frustrating back and forth required to resolve a medical billing question can be exhausting and stressful, to say the least. Consider the hassle associated with resolving one medical bill and imagine what HR departments and Benefits Managers must go through when trying to assist with hundreds or even thousands of claims. There is something ironic about medical bills having the potential to negatively impact health – at the individual and even enterprise levels. We think it is time to prioritize financial health as a key component to overall wellness and we believe that medical expenses are a great place to start.
The connectedness of stress, health, and individual financial circumstances should be considered when organizations are developing wellness programs and evaluating ROI (see our previous blog post on the SHRM study). By forming a more comprehensive view of the true contributors to wellness, we can develop a greater understanding of the relationship between financial health, physical health and emotional health. This improved understanding will enable the development of valuable tools for employees to address all three interconnected factors.
Wellness benefits like health incentives and programs to support physical and emotional health are abundant, but little support is offered in addressing overall financial health. A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 72% of adults feel stressed about money at least some of the time, and 22% experience “extreme stress” about money. The effects of financial stress are well documented and include anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, fatigue and irritability. Combine these with medical issues and there is danger of entering a cycle of declining health, financial insecurity and poor emotional states. These are certainly not traits that characterize a productive and efficient workforce.
The traditional employer contribution to employees’ financial health is direct compensation, with some adding 401k programs, annual bonuses and raises as incentives for retention. However, employers need to recognize that compensation is only half of the picture. It doesn’t account for the impact that unanticipated expenses and the resulting financial stress have on its workforce. Providing a more holistic package of compensation and financial health tools is a very impactful (and appreciated) way to address the gap.
By mitigating the stress involved in understanding and negotiating a medical bill, Copatient is saving employees money and time simultaneously – while also educating them at a time when they are most engaged. This is one of many simple low cost ways to begin addressing wellness from a financial perspective. With 90 percent of medical bills potentially containing errors, it’s almost certain the vast majority of employees will benefit from a wellness program bolstered by a financial management and advocacy partner.
It’s clear that financial stress affects the majority of the American public, and introducing programs to alleviate that stress can set the foundation for more comprehensive health management and engaged employees. Financial wellness programs offered in complement to wellness programs that focus on more physical goals like standing desks and pedometers is a smart and cost-effective way to keep employees happy and more productive.
Thomas Parry from the Integrated Benefits Institute aptly states, “If employers are going to stay in the business of healthcare (and make no mistake, in one way another, every employer is in the business of healthcare), the conversation must change from one of cost to one of value.”
We couldn’t agree more.