U.S. workers gamble with health insurance benefits; half will choose a high-deductible health plan, yet lack cash for out-of-pocket costs

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Nov. 5, 2019) — Nearly half (49%) of U.S. workers plan to enroll in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) for the 2020 benefit season, according to employee benefits provider Unum (NYSE: UNM). However, 41% don’t plan on meeting their deductible in 2019 and 39% found it difficult to pay for out-of-pocket costs not covered by their health insurance, especially Millennials (55%) and Gen Z (49%). These findings and more are part of an online poll of 1,512 U.S. working adults conducted by Unum in August.

HDHPs typically have deductibles — minimums people must spend before health insurance kicks in — of at least $1,350 for an individual or $2,700 for a family, as defined by Healthcare.gov. Without enough cash on hand, these costs can leave individuals and families financially vulnerable if they get sick or injured.

“While HDHPs can be a good choice for the relatively healthy and those looking to reduce monthly premiums, accidents and illnesses can be costly and happen unexpectedly,” said Ashley Shope, assistant vice president of product & market development at Unum. “Annual enrollment is a good time to consider supplemental benefits like accident, hospital and critical illness insurance that can help reduce financial risk often created with an HDHP.”

In the past five years, 61% of full-time U.S. workers have used their health insurance for medical treatment other than preventive screenings. For those who used their health insurance, the top reasons were an unexpected illness or diagnosis (53%) or an unexpected accident or injury (41%).

Supplemental benefits can help cash-strapped workers cover rising out-of-pocket expenses for health care. Accident, hospital, and critical illness insurance are common types of supplemental insurance that pair well with HDHPs, typically providing covered individuals and families a lump sum cash benefit if a covered accident, hospitalization or diagnosis occurs.

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About Unum Group

Unum Group (NYSE: UNM), an international provider of workplace benefits and services, has been helping workers and their families for 175 years. Through its Unum and Colonial Life brands, the company offers disability, life, accident, critical illness, dental, vision and stop-loss insurance; leave and absence management support and behavioral health services. In 2022, Unum reported revenues of about $12 billion and paid $8 billion in benefits. The Fortune 500 company is one of the 2023 World’s Most Ethical Companies, recognized by Ethisphere®. 

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