Woman with bill The financialconcerns of paying for unexpected medical bills, and potentiallyfuture doctors' visits, can mount and create a chain reaction thatmay negatively impact an employee's health.

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Employees today are strapped for cash. Research shows that 40percent of adults don't have the finances to cover an emergency expense over $400. For theseindividuals, unexpected medical bills could be catastrophic. Thisstrain is affecting more than just their checkbooks; it may alsoimpact how they recover from an illness or injury.

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As health care costs continue to increase and the financialburden weighs on employees, organizations must find creative waysto address these concerns. Some disability carriers are respondingto this challenge, and adapting their plans to offer physical andfinancial wellness resources. As a result, employers can get moreout of their benefits programs and provide a holistic approach tosupport employees' unique situations.

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Related: Critical illness insurance: Preparing for theunthinkable

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Here are key points to highlight when discussing how a holistic wellness approach can help improve anemployee's recovery, and help them return to work sooner:

Financial concerns can lead to lost productivity

The path to recovery from a disabling health condition can bedaunting. Physical and emotional stress, compounded with financialconcerns about medical bills and ongoing treatment, can add upquickly. With evolving employers' benefits plans and morehealth-related expenses being paid out of pocket by employees,financial concerns are becoming increasingly more prominent in manyworkplaces. These heightened stressors make it a key reason whyaddressing the financial wellness component of health care can bean important part of an employer's strategy.

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Consider this common scenario: An employee was in a car accidentseveral years ago and his back has never been the same. Over theweekend, he was moving boxes in his garage and hyperextended hisback. He's in tremendous pain but is afraid if he goes to thedoctor, he'll need X-rays or physical therapy, both of which mayrequire out-of-pocket costs. He decides to forego seeing his doctorand instead hopes the pain will subside.

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In this instance, and many like it, the financial concerns ofpaying for unexpected medical bills, and potentially futuredoctors' visits, can mount and create a chain reaction that maynegatively impact an employee's health. These compounding stressorscan also put employees at a higher risk for presenteesim, the actof working while sick or in poor health — often leading to lostproductivity.

Tailored solutions can make all the difference

It's key that employers understand how their disability carriercan work directly with HR teams to develop tailored solutions thatbest fit an employee's physical and financial wellness. Somedisability carriers can work directly with an employer's HR team todevelop a tailored stay-at-work or return-to-work plan for anemployee, and they can act as the bridge that can integrate withother employer vendors such as EAP, financial wellness counselorsand wellness programs to ensure an employee is being connected toall the resources available.

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A recent survey conducted by The Standard found that 77percent of employees who experienced a health condition were helpedby their employer's disability insurance carrier and were connectedto these types of workplace resources. After receiving assistance,93 percent of these employees felt they could perform their jobmore effectively. Disability carriers can help employers findcreative solutions to help address each employee's uniquechallenges — both the simple and more complex.

Stress can manifest into additional health concerns

As mentioned above, if left unaddressed, financial stress canadd up and cause delays in an employee's recovery, or even resultin additional health issues — like depression or anxiety. Thesimultaneous presence of an additional health issue, known as acomorbid condition, can prolong an employee's recovery and affecttheir productivity.

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To minimize compounding health issues, disability carriers canalso help provide accommodation options to meet employees' needs.Depending on the employee's health issue, accommodations likeschedule modifications, ergonomic equipment or job modificationscan help employees manage their condition, return to work fasterand increase their productivity. Perhaps the employee who injuredhis back may have been more comfortable with an ergonomic chair ormay have been less stressed if he had flexibility in his scheduleto attend doctors' appointments and not miss out on income.

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Given the current fight for top talent, addressing thesefinancial wellness concerns can go far in curbing lost productivityand reducing comorbidity before it's too late. Partnering with adisability carrier can help employers find solutions to theemployees' health-related challenges and keep them happier,healthier and more effective at work.

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Jung Ryu is the national accounts practiceleader for TheStandard and is responsible for developing comprehensivedisability management solutions that address the whole person tomeet the needs of the most complex clients. He providesrecommendations in all aspects of benefits ranging from core toancillary products, and is focused on providing strategic directionand advising stakeholders on the latest benefits trends. Hisexperience includes helping organizations develop multiyear healthcare strategies, creating ideas around operational efficiency andcost avoidance in health and retirement as a Big Four consultant,and as head of Total Rewards for a major insurancecarrier.


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