Finishing the marathon of 2020 by looking ahead
by Wendy HerndonMs. Herndon is second vice president of Product Launch and Adoption at Aflac. With more than 20 years of experience in this field, she is responsible for providing the overall strategy for all product-related launch, promotional and educational activities. Visit www.aflac.com
Every year, the holidays bring a sense of joy. They come with the finality of the current year and hope for the new year to come. In 2020, however, there seems to be a nearly unanimous desire to skip to the new year as quickly as possible. Before moving ahead too fast, it’s important to reflect on the year’s challenges and learnings to help in developing future strategies and new plans for clients.
An Unprecedented Year Leads To Difficult Decisions
While 2020 kicked off with a wave of optimism, it was clear by March that the world was changing significantly at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. People started to think more about their insurance benefits available in case of an unexpected health event like the coronavirus, growing more prevalent as concerns rose around COVID-19’s potential long-term effects and complications.
According to the 2020 Aflac Health Care Issues Survey, COVID-19 affected 16% of families with children under 18 in the household — and of these, 75% said they or a member of their household required hospitalization for the coronavirus.1 Hospitalization due to COVID-19 can be costly. A single symptomatic COVID-19 case could incur a median direct medical cost of $3,045 during the course of the infection, according to Health Affairs.2
While eyes remain focused on COVID-19, other serious illnesses affect Americans and can lead to a hefty bill. Along with the coronavirus, diabetes, cancer, heart attack and stroke comprised the top-five health conditions people say they or a member of their household faced, according to the Aflac survey.1
As we enter the holiday season, it’s clear that Americans face significant costs for their health care. Among families who visited the hospital in the past two years, 70% faced substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses beyond a copay or deductible during their most recent visit, with 64% spending $500 or more in out-of-pocket costs1 — half of what the average U.S. shopper plans to spend this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.3
These expenses often result in holiday compromises. In fact, within the last two years, nearly 3 in 4 (71%) families had to make a sacrifice or hard decision during the holidays because of medical cost concerns. These difficult decisions are far-reaching, including relying on a credit card to pay the bills (28%), spending less on holiday gifts or going without giving them altogether (23%), or canceling holiday travel to see family or friends (21%).1
While these sacrifices and tough decisions are unfortunate, advisors have the opportunity to help clients develop their 2021 plans, focusing on ways for employees to better minimize unexpected medical expenses during the holidays and year-round.
Services To Consider in 2021
When working with clients to identify insurance priorities in the coming year, encourage them to consider the benefits of supplemental coverage, which helps with out-of-pocket expenses health insurance doesn’t cover such as copays, deductibles, groceries, rent and more. Employees will likely appreciate the ability to customize their benefits package to better suit their unique needs. For example, workers concerned about their family history may appreciate the option for cancer and critical illness supplemental insurance.
Consider the place of value-added services, which supplemental insurers like Aflac can provide access to and are relevant in today’s landscape. One option is tele-health, which allows patients to meet with a doctor virtually, saving them a trip to their physician’s office, especially in a time emphasizing social distancing.
Medical bills can often be complicated, making a service like health advocacy pertinent for employees looking to better navigate and understand the intricacies of health care. This service allows employees to ask questions of professionals who can assist them with understanding a claim or negotiating a bill.
2020 shined a light on the need to maintain one’s emotional health as people face heightened stress and anxiety. Employee assistance programs can help provide confidential support, guidance and referrals for a wide range of issues, including stress, grief, family problems and psychological disorders. Each of these networks are specifically designed to support the mental health of employees.
Bringing The Year To A Close With New Beginnings
It is important to learn from the past when preparing for the future. As you begin developing and presenting plans for 2021, do not forget to reflect on the lessons learned in 2020. By talking to existing and prospective clients about the benefits options available to them outside of health insurance, you can help them be better prepared for the unexpected during the holiday season and beyond.
1 2020 Aflac Health Care Issues Survey, a national online survey of 1,138 U.S. adults fielded in August 2020 by Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Learn more at Aflac.com/HCI.
2 “The Potential Health Care Costs and Resource Use Associated With COVID-19 In The United States.” Health Affairs. Accessed Nov. 13, 2020. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00426.
3 “Consumers Prioritize Spending on Family, Friends Ahead of Holiday Season.” National Retail Federation. Accessed Nov. 13, 2020. https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/consumers-prioritize-spending-family-friends-ahead-holiday-season.
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The value-added services mentioned herein are offered by multiple providers. Aflac’s affiliation with the value-added service providers is limited only to a marketing alliance. Other than this marketing alliance, Aflac and the value-added service providers are not affiliated in any way. Aflac makes no representations or warranties regarding the value-added service providers, and is not responsible for any of the products or services provided by the value-added service providers. Value-Added Services are not available to accounts located in ID, MD, MN, NY or PR. Value-Added Services are not available to residents of ID or MN. Additional state restrictions may apply and benefits may vary by state. Each value-added service provider offers its products and services subject to its own terms, limitations and exclusions. Refer to plan details for further information on terms, limitations and exclusions.
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