Americans are curbing health spending as inflation rises. Here’s how employers can help

2 min
November 30, 2022
By Alexis Kayser

Americans’ health can be negatively affected by redirecting financial resources — a symptom of inflation that is on the rise, according to a Nov. 29 Harvard Business Review article.

The article was written by Sean Duffy, co-founder and CEO of integrated virtual care platform Omada Health.

Inflation hit a 40-year high over the summer, and a June West Health and Gallup survey found that 38 percent of American adults delayed or skipped treatment in the previous six months due to rising medical costs, Mr. Duffy wrote. Nearly 100 million surveyees said they cut back on other expenses, such as driving, utilities and food, or borrowing money to pay medical bills.

People may see tending to their health as a luxury rather than a necessity, according to Mr. Duffy. Medications, visits to a physician, gym memberships and healthy food are expenses that might get cut as costs for other needs, including housing and transportation, continue to rise.

Stress about finances can also have negative effects on a person’s health. Eighty-seven percent of Americans say inflation is a “significant” source of stress, which can affect the energy they put toward caring for themselves, according to Mr. Duffy. Additionally, a February 2021 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that increasing prescription drug costs by $10 led to a 33 percent increase in deaths as patients cut back on necessary medications.

Employers have a stake in the situation, Mr. Duffy said. For every dollar spent on healthcare benefits, 61 cents of productivity is lost to illness and injury, according to a study from the Integrated Benefits Institute. Reminding employees of their benefits and explaining each feature thoroughly can encourage them to take advantage of preventive care options and other available resources. It also can aid in retention, as Pew Research found 43 percent of workers left their jobs because of poor benefits, Mr. Duffy wrote.