How Do Your Employees Make Healthcare Ends Meet?

It’s not just patients who struggle to figure out the price of healthcare. Employers are struggling, too. Most employers just take it on the chin every year when the annual increase is announced by their broker and the truth is that the cost of premiums to the employer doesn’t say all that much about the total cost of healthcare.

The total cost includes employer paid premiums, employees’ share of the premiums, and the employees out-of-pocket. When premiums are going up, deductibles are going up, and out-of-pocket spending is going up, does anyone really have the big picture? The answer is “no,” and the healthcare industry likes it that way. The less we know, the more they are in control.

The median household income in the U.S. is approaching $80K. That’s the household income, mind you; it’s not the median salary of an American Now let’s look at healthcare. The average cost of healthcare for a family of four surpassed $28,000 per year in 2018.

That number includes employer and employee paid premiums and out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and copays. $28K! That’s about a third of the median household income. That is an insane ratio! And one way or another, that $28,000 has to be paid.

Can Your Employees Afford Their Healthcare Costs?

The average retail employee in the U.S. earns less than $14/hr. Though recent wage inflation and new minimum wage laws are pushing that up a bit, it’s not nearly enough to make a difference when it comes to healthcare.

A full-time job at $14/hr nets less than $28,000/year after taxes. That means many Americans are earning less than it takes to cover the healthcare for a family of four. And that’s before the rent and something to eat.

Obviously, that’s not doable. But let’s assume that the $14/hr retail employee is young and single (not true, but let’s assume it for now). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average cost of annual healthcare for a young, single American is over $3,000 per year. Where does someone earning $28,000/year come up with $3,000 ($250/month)?

Help Your Employees Be Better Healthcare Consumers

But here’s the challenge. If you employ $14/hr employees, how do YOU come up with the money to take care of them? The family person needs to come up with $28,000. As an employer, you certainly can’t do it. That would mean doubling the payroll. But the employee can’t cover it either. So, suppose you split it. You invest half–$14K. That would increase your payroll by 50%. And where would the employee come up with the other $14K. The numbers just don’t work.

So, what happens? In most cases, the employers that pay $14/hr offer nothing more than the bare minimum. That often means spending $3,000 per year or less on employer paid insurance. Where does that leave the employee who can’t come up with the other $25,000?

There are two answers:

There’s not much an employer can do financially. The economics of a business that pays employees $14/hr simply don’t work. But there is something the employer can do to help.

Employers can help their uninsured and underinsured employees become better healthcare consumers by providing them with the education and resources they need to manage their healthcare on a tight budget and, in general, in the little-understood world of cash-pay healthcare.

Unfortunately, those at the lowest end of the economic totem pole are often the same people with the most limited access to help and support. The least we can do is to help them help themselves by empowering them with the knowledge, information, self-confidence and support necessary to make the best of a bad situation.