Healthcare costs are the leading cause of financial stress for 17 percent of Americans, according to a 2017 Gallup poll gauging household stress. As uncertainty around the fate of Affordable Care Act mounts, this stress is only getting worse for your employees – and more expensive for your business.

Fifty two percent of male employees and 58 percent of female employees worry about becoming ill and not being able to work anymore, according to the 2017 Workplace Benefits Report. Financial stress leads to lower productivity and higher rates of absenteeism – this stress is even causes physical illness among some employees which only compounds the problem.

What can you do when healthcare costs leave your employees financially stressed? Try these 5 strategies:

1. Understand which healthcare-related stressors are affecting your employees
Your employees may be feeling massively stressed about their healthcare, regardless of their employee-sponsored benefits programs. The costs associated with monthly coverage, the difficulties of navigating confusing plan options and the weight of outstanding medical bills continue to stress out employees. Talk with your team as well as your HR department to determine exactly how healthcare may be contributing to your employees’ stress levels. This will allow you begin taking the appropriate steps to resolve these healthcare-related stressors.

2. Reassess the healthcare resources you already have
Once you understand the root cause of your employees’ stress, begin to review the healthcare resources you already have in place to help them. It may be time to diversify your approach. Reach out for external resources in order to analyze existing data.

  • Request assistance and information directly from your company’s insurance provider and its agents.
  • Reach out to company-linked financial advisors for relevant employee data
  • Access your company’s existing financial wellness programs in order to evaluate your employees’ stress levels, major financial concerns and overarching long term personal and professional goals.

If your company doesn’t currently retain all three of the above, it’s time you change that. These professional services assist you with educating yourself and your employees on how to maximize their healthcare benefits.

3. Provide your employees with the tools they need to educate themselves.
Your employees want to take control of their financial stress – many of them just don’t know where to start. Do your employees know the difference between an HMO, PPO, EPO, or POS? Between a copay and coinsurance? Do they understand how the size of their deductible will affect their monthly payment? Do you?

Improving employee literacy around healthcare is paramount to reducing employee stress and improving both their healthcare usage and your company’s savings. Look for tools through your insurance provider and if you don’t have one already, finding a financial wellness platform that will break down complex laws and regulations into readable, consumer-friendly language. By empowering your employees to take an active and supported role in researching their options, you’re helping them make educated and informed decisions. This translates into nearly $409.38 in savings for your company – per procedure, per employee.

4. Help your employees stay on top of recent changes to the healthcare system.
Healthcare stress is the highest it’s been since 2007, according to the same Gallup poll. This rising stress is tied in no small part to the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act and what legislation might take its place. Whether your employees are receive insurance through you or the open market, stay aware of the changes happening in the world of healthcare – and make sure your employees do the same. Encourage employees to be proactive in gathering their own healthcare information. Task HR with maintaining effective outreach strategies including email updates, written literature in clear, readable language, face-to-face meetings and regular surveys. Host recurring employee workshops or lunch-and-learns to catch employees up on the latest changes to their plan options. Keeping employees up-to-date on the latest changes to their healthcare will cut down on employee stress, keep you connected with your workforce and keep your company’s overhead in check.

5. Make sure your employees are using the healthcare resources you already provide.
Employee benefits are useless if no one uses them. Employees who understand and utilize their benefits are more likely to be satisfied with their employer and recommend their organization as a good place to work, according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management. Yet, 80 percent of employees don’t even open the benefits materials given to them and of those who do, less than half don’t fully understand the benefits options available. In-person communication is the best way to cover confusing, and often changing, healthcare benefits. Make sure that resources about provided benefits – and about healthcare in general are easily accessible online.

Increase your employees’ access to their benefits resources. Create an environment that allows you to ensure that your employees are less stressed and more productive. That’s good for the health of your employees – and your business.