BLOOMFIELD, Conn., October 06, 2014 - A survey released today by Cigna (NYSE:CI) finds that U.S. consumers believe health costs could have a major impact on their financial well-being and their ability to finance future needs, such as putting children through college and enjoying a secure retirement.
The survey also shows consumers view their health and wellness broadly, encompassing all parts of their lives - physical, emotional and financial - and many are taking specific steps to improve health and manage costs. They say they would value more help from their health plans to manage health care finances and motivate them to become healthier and stay well.
The research, "Health and Financial Well-being: How Strong Is the Link?" (http://www.cigna.com/knowyourbenefits) sought the opinions of 1,847 insured women and men from across the nation who have health care coverage with many different carriers.
"The insights gained from our survey show how strong the link is between health and financial security, and reinforces our role in understanding customers' needs and working with them to lead healthier, more secure lives," said Dr. Scott Josephs, Cigna national medical officer. "Years ago, we heard customers say they wanted to protect their health so they could see a child graduate from college or get married. Today, consumers seem to be saying they also want to protect their financial security so they can pay for that child's college education or wedding."
Cost concerns are evident throughout the survey responses, and appear to reflect the growth in consumers' out-of-pocket costs for their health care. Seventy-five percent of respondents believe health costs for preventive care, emergencies, treatments, prescriptions and long-term care could ruin their prospects for a secure retirement. Forty-four percent worry they won't have the money to pay for their child's college education because of health costs. Forty-two percent of consumers note hospitalization as their number one health cost concern, followed by health costs for a spouse or partner (19 percent) and costs of medications (16 percent.) A majority, 80 percent, say they wish "doing healthier things didn't cost so much." And cost is the number one reason people give for not going to the doctor.
The survey also points to the resilience and resourcefulness of consumers in the face of cost challenges, Josephs said. Many consumers (83 percent) report taking steps to improve their health, and for most (79 percent), health is a work-in-progress. Those who haven't yet reached their goals cite "getting sidetracked by life" events (41 percent) and lack of willpower (39 percent) as the reasons. They say they're motivated by cash rewards, health insurance premium discounts, and positive reinforcement as ways to help them achieve their objectives. Some consumers also are receptive to using online tools, mobile apps and support groups to help them stay on track, as well as different types of insurance coverage or programs beyond their medical plans to provide financial protection. For example, approximately one-third or more of consumers cite long-term disability coverage (39 percent), critical illness insurance (37 percent), vision insurance (34 percent), accidental injury insurance (34 percent), having a health care manager to help with health care finances (34 percent), or short-term disability (33 percent) coverage as options of highest interest.
"We must make customers familiar with all the people, tools and resources available to them, starting with the good news that more consumers have preventive care services fully covered by their health plans," Josephs said. "Health coaches, nutritionists, 24-hour nurse lines, online cost tools for medications, procedures and hospitals, health savings accounts and wellness apps - together with guidance on how to make cost-effective health decisions and choose other types of financial protection - are ways we can help give customers a greater sense of control over their futures."
Considering the future, 54 percent of consumers report they have a favorable outlook and liken their health costs to their monthly internet, television or phone bill. More than four in 10 consumers (46 percent) are less favorable and say health costs will rise faster than their household income; for them, health costs equal a monthly rent or mortgage payment. Affordability is a greater challenge for those who earn less than $50,000, are of Hispanic or Asian descent, and have children at home. About half of all people surveyed say they've sacrificed health care at times to pay for other needs, with one in four people aged 25-34 saying they've done so once a month.
In the face of affordability challenges, consumers report they're managing their costs by using lower-cost medications such as generic drugs (90 percent), planning ahead and budgeting for health insurance and medical expenses (67 percent) and shopping for health care services that cost less (57 percent). Consumers also see a clear role for their health plans, saying they value health plans to pay their medical claims (89 percent), help to manage cost issues (82 percent), provide financial protection (80 percent), negotiate prices with doctors and hospitals (71 percent), help them and their families get healthier (67 percent) and help them navigate the health system (63 percent).
"As families are spending more of their own money on their health, they're worried about staying within their means. Unanticipated medical costs due to an illness or injury can put many families in a difficult position," according to Josephs. He noted that while the fall benefits enrollment season is an opportunity for people to evaluate their health and finances, Cigna's survey shows that half of consumers spend an hour or less choosing a health plan. "Reviewing health plans, along with other protection like disability coverage, has become a major financial decision. We encourage everyone to take the time to carefully consider their choices in light of their personal goals, household budgets and future needs."
About the Survey
"Health and Financial Well-being: How Strong Is the Link?" was conducted electronically via a panel by MRops Data Collection from August 7 - 21, 2014 with 1,847 women and men 25-64. The sampling error is +/-2.3% at a 95 percent confidence levels. Oversampling took place in six markets to evaluate regional comparisons and also among Hispanics and adults over age 65.
Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) is a global health service company dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and sense of security. All products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, including Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Life Insurance Company of North America and Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. Such products and services include an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, supplemental benefits, and other related products including group life, accident and disability insurance. Cigna maintains sales capability in 30 countries and jurisdictions, and has approximately 85 million customer relationships throughout the world. To learn more about Cigna®, including links to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, visit www.cigna.com.