Oct 30, 2023 - Health

More employers try to shield low-wage workers from health costs

Data:  Mercer 2023-2024 Inside Employees' Minds study; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Mercer 2023-2024 Inside Employees' Minds study; Chart: Axios Visuals

More workplaces are offering at least one health plan that is free to employees or offers no-deductible coverage for certain services as many workers struggle to afford care.

Driving the news: The number of large employers offering at least one free medical plan to employees increased from 11% this year to 15% in 2024 coverage, according to a new Mercer survey.

  • "That's actually a pretty significant increase," said Beth Umland, Mercer's director of research for health and benefits, in a presentation on the findings.

More employers are also tying employees' monthly premium contributions to salary, with lower-wage workers paying less.

  • 34% of the largest employers — defined as having 20,000 or more workers — are offering salary-based contributions, up from 29% this year.
  • "We're also seeing that employers are providing other forms of support to address financial wellness, which is especially helpful for their lower-paid employees ... freeing up cash to be used for things like medical bills," Umland said.

By the numbers: One in four workers don't feel they can afford their health care needs without causing financial hardship, according to the Mercer 2023-2024 Inside Employees' Minds study.

  • About half of those making $30,000 or less said they could.
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