Why Your Employees are Deferring Health Care—and How You Can Help
According to a recent One Medical survey of HR leaders and full-time employees, almost 90 percent of workers experienced at least one healthcare need during the last year—while more than half of employees also deferred receiving health care at least once. Another 55 percent of respondents postponed or skipped a regularly scheduled doctor's visit during the last calendar year.
This means that many employees who need medical care may not be receiving it in a timely manner—putting their health, happiness, and productivity at risk. Why are employees deferring their health care, and as an employer, what can you do to help?
Factors Behind Deferring Health Care
The survey revealed a few interesting patterns regarding who is deferring their health care—and why.
- Younger workers are far more likely to defer care than older workers. Around 71 percent of workers aged 25 to 34 reported deferring health care over the last year, while only 29 percent of workers aged 55 to 64 reported the same.
- One in three working parents postponed or skipped health care for their children.
- Nearly half, or 46 percent, of employees reported that they had deferred seeking care due to fears of contracting COVID.
- Another one in four employees found themselves dealing with scheduling issues when trying to seek healthcare.
- Almost one in five employees reported long delays in appointment scheduling; the average wait time for a patient to see a new doctor is 24 days, nearly six days longer than in 2014.
- Fifteen percent of employees reported that they were reluctant to seek care because their premium or co-pay was too much of a financial burden.
- Twelve percent of employees delayed health care due to their belief that a checkup is unnecessary if the employee is healthy.
Some surveyed employees had more than one answer to why they deferred health care in the last year; for many, this delay can be attributed to a combination of scheduling issues and health care cost, or COVID fears and long delays in being able to get an appointment.
How Employers Can Better Support Employees
This survey also inquired into the ways companies are adjusting (or need to adjust) their HR strategies to address how deferred care impacts employees more effectively. Not only can employees who defer health care wind up dealing with more serious health issues that lead to absenteeism or poor performance, but by failing to seek treatment until a small problem becomes a big one, they can also increase the overall cost of your company's health care plan.
Almost all the HR leaders surveyed planned to implement at least one of the following changes:
- Analyze employees' use of wellness programs
- Invest in telemedicine or other virtual care
- Improve the risk screening process
- Explore and identify new services to address rising health care costs
- Design a health care plan to incentivize healthy behaviors like eating well, getting recommended vaccines, and exercising regularly
This survey has revealed some uncomfortable truths about health care avoidance—but with them, a path for employers to provide more support to their employees who need it. With the cost of health care continuing to rise, these solutions can have a tangible impact on both employee wellness and your organization's bottom line.
This blog is up to date as of October 2021 and has not been updated for changes in the law, administration or current events.