The Future of Health Wellness Belongs to Women

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Tiffany Wirth, SVP of Healthcare Marketing, WEX Inc. 

Getting employees to pay attention to their health benefits options, take time to understand them, and make the right choices to set themselves up for financial success has been a big part of my mission as a communications leader in the health benefits space. Nothing has shone a light on the importance of our health and benefits like the COVID-19 pandemic. Many women faced new, unforeseen medical and childcare expenses, lost their jobs, and took pay cuts. While the pandemic brought a lot of hardship, it also reminded us that we need to be prepared for the unexpected. 

Pandemics worsen existing gender inequities both domestically and abroad, and this one was no different.1 In 2020, we saw more women forced to leave the workplace than ever before, which also put more families at greater financial risk. Women experience higher rates of poverty than men as a result of discrimination, and sexist policies that have led to the gender wage gap constrain women to lower-wage jobs and prevent nationwide policies supportive of working parents all of which have harmed women of color the most.2 Women are also more vulnerable than men to unexpected healthcare costs. These issues existed before the pandemic, but COVID has compounded everything. Right now, consumers are looking for more guidance about how to tackle routine or unexpected healthcare costs and financially adjust to the new “normal.” 

Women are overwhelmingly responsible for the family healthcare decisions and, according to the Center for Talent Innovation, whether or not they are married or have children, 94 percent of women make healthcare decisions for themselves and 59 percent make healthcare decisions for others. And 58 percent of women who make healthcare decisions for others lack confidence in their ability to do so. These numbers are eye-opening, especially when you think about the average amount of time people spend selecting their healthcare coverage. In our 2018 Clear Insights Report, we found that three-quarters respondents spent less than an hour evaluating their employer’s different healthcare options during open enrollment. 

Over the past several years, WEX has put an emphasis on educating consumers about how to get the most from their benefits, helping them to make better choices to set themselves up for financial health. Our goal is to be part of the solution, working with employers to offer more flexible plans and better tools to educate employees.

I appreciate that the theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” Together with my peers in the company, I continually think about WEX’s role in taking on that challenge, and how we can do even more for employers and employees in helping to ensure women’s economic futures. 

Employers and HR professionals need to think about and approach benefits differently. The pandemic has already confirmed that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for employees when it comes to how and where they work. Flexibility is crucial, especially if we want to keep women in the workforce. The pandemic’s impact on the economy and our view of healthcare means that both financial wellness and mental health will be a big focus for employers going forward. More employers need to see benefits like health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) as “health and wealth” planning and savings tools for their employees and prioritize helping employees make meaningful choices with their dollars. Embedded in the many conversations about the evolving landscape of employee benefits this year is the need to focus on helping employees save on healthcare costs and plan for out-of-pocket and unexpected medical expenses. If employers can help reduce worries over financial challenges and create thriving talent engagement programs, we will see the world recover in a more meaningful way. 

Our goal will be to encourage employers to go the extra mile to ensure employees are taking advantage of accounts that offer tax advantages and savings opportunities in addition to traditional modes of savings, such as 401(k) plans. 

We’ll also continue to work with our employer partners to develop creative programs that provide new levels of support and education for employees, such as concierge services, telemedicine, and other benefits for families adjusting to life after the pandemic. With heightened expectations for educating employees on their benefits options more broadly, I see the importance of communicating benefits in a more systematic and structural approach than just sharing benefits options in PDFs. Our challenge is to create more conversation and find ways to better meet the needs of female employees and consumers. 

For the many employer partners WEX serves, I see these trends further emphasizing the importance of having deep, data-driven insight about their employees. I know that women have the experience and resourcefulness to play a huge role in us building back and growing beyond the many challenges that 2020 brought, and I am proud to support that effort. 

#ChooseToChallenge 

 


About the Author: Tiffany Wirth is SVP of Healthcare Marketing at WEX, leading the communications, public relations, and marketing efforts that help WEX’s health division remain the leader in the consumer-driven healthcare industry. Before Tiffany Wirth made her entry into healthcare as WEX Health’s VP of marketing in 2009, she served as Microsoft’s senior product manager and then senior marketing manager. At Microsoft, she had access to well-established messaging and engagement platforms (not to mention, huge brand awareness); at WEX Health, she had to use her ingenuity to build something incredible from scratch. Then, WEX Health was a small and rapidly growing consumer-directed healthcare software company of a different name. Now, more than 50 percent of Fortune 1000 employer groups use our technology. Then, Tiffany was the only employee dedicated to marketing. Now, she oversees a team of 12 FTEs, four interns and several contracted vendors across three locations. Over the past decade, throughout a series of acquisitions and mergers, Tiffany has directed WEX Health’s strategy and budget around public relations, events, product marketing, brand and partner marketing. Helping to propel WEX Health through its massive evolution, Tiffany has spearheaded three separate company rebranding efforts, including its repositioning from a health payments company into the biggest technology player in the space. When she started with the company, it wasn’t yet profitable. Just five years later, it sold to WEX, Inc. for $535 million.