WTW survey: 4 in 10 employees deferred healthcare in the past year

Four in 10 employees deferred healthcare in the past year, according to a new report from Willis Towers Watson.

The survey, which polled more than 9,600 workers in the U.S., found that 28% delayed or canceled a medical procedure, while 17% did not fill a prescription. Twenty percent of those surveyed said their provider canceled the treatment or procedure.

When asked why they deferred care, 25% said they could not afford it and 23% said they were unsure of the costs associated with the treatment. Twenty-two percent of those surveyed said they had difficulties affording care over the past year.

“The ability to access and afford healthcare has always been a high priority for employers and employees," said Regina Ihrke, senior director of health and benefits at WTW, in a statement.

"As organizations plan their future benefit offerings, in light of an expected increase in medical inflation, we expect most employers will prioritize affordability and continue to focus on expanded use of virtual care, including telemedicine, as an integral part of their healthcare strategy in order to provide cost-effective, high-quality care to their employees and families,” Ihrke said.

The survey also found that employees who significantly struggle to pay for care suffer as a result, with 33% saying that having care deferred made their health worse.

In addition, among those who said it was very difficult to afford care, 58% said their health suffered.

The survey suggests that employer support to promote financial health can help. More than one-third (36%) of those surveyed said these benefits helped them, up from 27% in 2017. Close to half (47%) said they want financial tools to be considered core tenets of benefits packages.