A large number of workers are struggling with out-of-pocketcosts within high-deductible health plans, but many are alsonot aware of supplemental plans that can augment those costs,according to the Securian Benefits Survey July 2017.

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KRC Research surveyed 573 adults in group plans on behalf ofSecurian Financial Group, and found that one-third (31 percent) ofthose with employer-provided health insurance report having paid orknow a family member who has paid an unexpected out-of-pocketmedical expense in the past five years caused by a critical illnesssuch as cancer, a heart attack or a stroke.

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Sixty-one percent say the costs were manageable, but a quarter(27 percent) say the costs set them back financially, and 12percent say they could not afford the out-of-pocket costs and havenot yet paid the bills. Meanwhile, 12 percent say they do not knowhow they would pay a $500 out-of-pocket expense in the future, and21 percent are not sure how they would pay a $5,000expense.

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While paying for out-of-pocket medical expenses would be the topfinancial concern for 42 percent of workers facing a debilitatinginjury, a critical illness diagnosis or a hospitalization, an evenhigher percentage of respondents (58 percent) say their top concernwould be lost wages from work, the ability to pay for regularmonthly expenses such as groceries, or the need to take onadditional expenses such as lawn care or cleaning.

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However, less than half (44 percent) of the respondents areaware that many employers now provide supplemental group insuranceoptions to help employees pay for out-of-pocket expenses and othercosts associated with an accidental injury, hospital stay orcritical illness.

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“Employers recognize that health care costs have becomeburdensome to their workers and their families, and it’s importantto remember that these cost increases have impacted employers’bottom lines as well,” says Terry Holloway, an employee benefitsadvisor and executive vice president with insurance broker CobbsAllen. “Supplemental group insurance benefits are a cost-effectivesolution for both employers and employees. We have seen asignificant increase in employer interest in these and othervoluntary benefit platforms in the past five years, along withinnovative enrollment solutions from insurance carriers.”

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In fact, 70 percent of those on employer-sponsored healthinsurance are offered benefits in addition to their health plan.The most common benefit offered is life insurance (54 percent),followed by disability insurance (38 percent) and a healthsavings account (36 percent). A quarter (24 percent) say theiremployer offers accidental injury insurance, while 15 percent haveaccess to critical illness insurance and just 9 percent have accessto hospital indemnity insurance.

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Nearly one-fifth (18 percent) are unaware of the additionalbenefits offered by their employer and 12 percent say theiremployer offers none of those benefits, although most takeadvantage of additional benefits offered by theiremployer.

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Fully 75 percent of those offered life insurance take advantageof it. About two-thirds (64 percent) also take advantage ofaccidental injury insurance, if offered. Other popular coveragesthat the respondents in group plans take advantage of, whenoffered, include hospital indemnity insurance (59 percent),disability insurance (54 percent), HSAs (52 percent) and criticalillness insurance (47 percent).

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“The rising cost of health care has driven many employers tooffer supplemental group insurance products, often in conjunctionwith a health savings account,” says Elias Vogen, a director withSecurian. “This combination can be cost-effective for both employerand employee.”

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The survey was conducted online from June 8 to June 12, and atotal of 1,010 survey respondents answered an initial screenerquestion on the source of their health insurance. The rest of thesurvey was answered by a base of 573 respondents who participate ina health insurance plan provided by their employer or theirspouse’s employer. The sample was weighted by demographics such asage, gender, race, region and income “to ensure reliable andaccurate representation of the national population age 18 andolder.”

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.