Financial wellness benefits are critical to advancing whole-person health

Preparing for retirement. Saving for college. Financing a home. More employees are turning to their employers for tools to help them manage their finances.

Personal financial pressures don’t just stop when an employee enters the office, whether on-site or remote. Stress over retirement planning, getting surprised by financial emergencies and not having a monthly budget are all factors that can lead to distraction while at work.1

In fact, a recent survey found that 50% of employees spend an average of 2.5 hours a week trying to manage personal finances during the workday,2 while another survey reported that the loss of focused work hours due to poor employee financial health equates to almost $2B annually.3

With nearly 3 in 4 Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck,it’s no surprise that financial wellness is now ranked as the top benefit requested by employees.5 And it’s not just employees who think employers should support their financial wellness: 97% of employers stated that they feel "very responsible" for the financial state of their employees.6 Why? Because they believe that offering financial wellness support can result in:6

  • More satisfied employees
  • More loyal employees
  • More engaged employees
  • Greater employee productivity
  • Stronger employee performance

In a tight labor market, financial wellness benefits may be the difference in attracting and retaining top talent or seeing them go. Employers can pave the way to financial wellness for their employees by offering financial literacy resources and managing the high costs of health care. 

"Financial stress and economic hardships impact the overall health and well-being of employees. Employers that include financial wellness programs in their health plan demonstrate a commitment to achieving whole-person health."

— Tom Wiffler, Chief Executive Officer, UnitedHealthcare Specialty Benefits

Offering tools to improve financial literacy

One of the first steps an employer can take to support employee financial wellness (beyond retirement planning) is to include programs that help them better understand how to manage their finances.

Traditional retirement planning has been a part of employee benefit packages for decades. In fact, the first corporate pension plan was offered in 1875 to help transition older employees into retirement, and 401(k)s were introduced 100 years later, in 1978, to help employees proactively save for their own retirement by deferring taxes on payroll savings.7  While these options are a start, more employees are now in charge of making retirement planning decisions and need to better understand how to utilize these benefits.

Employee assistant programs (EAPs) can be designed to include financial planning assistance along with other traditional areas of support, such as behavioral health, wellness and legal assistance. These financial wellness services may include:

  • 1-on-1 financial coaching
  • Online educational sessions
  • Financial literacy programs
  • Budgeting and cash flow management tools
  • Tax guidance and tax return preparation

When employers provide tools that help increase the financial literacy of their workforce, they can help empower employees to feel more in control of their personal finances, less distracted at work and physically and mentally healthier. 

Helping employees manage their health care costs

Employers can make it easier for employees to manage their health care costs by providing resources that help them find the right care, from the right providers, at the right costs.

For instance, at UnitedHealthcare, digital tools allow members to search for providers and pricing upfront, to help them make more informed health care decisions. And with $0 copays for certain services like primary care, urgent care or 24/7 virtual care visits, eligible employees covered with UnitedHealthcare can see the value of their health plan right away.

Health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) can also help by allowing employees to put aside pre-tax contributions to pay for certain medical costs. Additionally, employees can even earn financial incentives for participating in certain wellness activities through programs like UnitedHealthcare Rewards.

Supporting employees when an unexpected medical bill arrives

Offering supplemental benefits is another way employers can help employees deal with challenging medical events like major illnesses or accidental injuries. When an employee or family member is facing a health crisis, their focus should be on getting better, not stressing about their finances.

Supplemental health plans provide additional financial security through payments that employees can use however they want, whether that’s for groceries or for medical bills. For example, UnitedHealthcare Benefit Ally® is a supplemental product that can be bundled with UnitedHealthcare medical plans to help employees pay for the added health care costs associated with accidents, critical illnesses and hospital admissions and stays. When employees utilize Benefit Ally, employers also see value as it can simplify the administration of benefits and may lead to greater employee satisfaction as their financial burdens are lessened. For example, after a health crisis, Benefit Ally can help by bridging the gap between high deductibles and when coverage kicks in — by sending a check directly to the employee.

Another option for helping employees with unexpected bills is to offer support for out-of-network claims. Health plans like Surest™ from UnitedHealthcare aim to provide members upfront cost and coverage information so members can check costs and compare options before making an appointment.

And while the No Surprises Act went into effect Jan. 1, 2022, to protect consumers from surprise medical bills, there are still many out-of-network service claims that are not covered by this Act. For these situations, including an out-of-network payment program can help employees cover surprise health care costs not included in the Act.

For example, Naviguard®, an out-of-network solution, helps manage the medical bill resolutions process from end-to-end to avoid overpayment for medical services and allow for current and future health care cost optimization.

Taking a whole-person health approach to employee benefits means addressing one’s physical, mental, social and financial health needs. When employees are less stressed, they are healthier overall and tend to be more productive — and more productive workforces are beneficial to company culture and even its bottom line. Employers can help by expanding their health plans to include financial wellness tools to help employees be more confident about their financial future.

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