Survey: Employees not prepared to take greater control of health care

COLUMBUS, Ga. — American workers are not prepared to take greater control of their health care in light of healthcare reform and rising healthcare costs, according to recent research.

“It may be referred to as ‘consumer-driven health care,’ but in actuality, consumers aren’t the ones driving these changes, so it’s no surprise that many feel unprepared,” stated Audrey Boone Tillman, EVP corporate services at Aflac. “The bottom line is if consumers aren’t educated about the full scope of their options, they risk making costly mistakes without a financial back-up plan.”

The findings are from the third annual Aflac WorkForces Report, a national study that analyzes the trends, attitudes and use of employee benefits. The 2013 AWR results are from an online survey of nearly 1,900 benefits decision-makers and more than 5,200 U.S. workers, conducted in January 2013 by Research Now and released by Aflac.

Among the findings of the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report:

  • 72% of the workforce have not heard of the phrase “consumer-driven health care;”
  • More than half (54%) of workers would prefer not to have greater control over their insurance options because they don’t have the time or knowledge to effectively manage it;
  • 62% of workers believe the medical costs they will be responsible for will increase, while only 23% are saving money for potential increases;
  • 75% of workers said they think their employer would educate them about changes to their healthcare coverage as a result of reform, but only 13% of employers said educating employees about healthcare reform was important to their organization.

As consumers are confronted with more healthcare decisions, the 2013 Aflac report found that many workers already find health insurance decisions daunting and have reservations about taking greater control. In fact, the research found that 53% fear that they may not adequately manage their coverage, leaving their families less protected than they are now. Not only have they been historically complacent, with 89% admitting they choose the same benefits year over year, but many don’t understand the options provided to them.

Furthermore, the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report found that among consumers:

  • 32% are not very/not at all knowledgeable about health savings accounts;
  • 76% are not very/not at all knowledgeable about federal and state healthcare exchanges;
  • Almost half (49%) are not very/not at all knowledgeable about health reimbursement accounts;
  • 25% are not very/not at all knowledgeable about flex spending accounts.

Cost Shifting: Facing the Facts

To control their healthcare expenses, businesses are choosing new health plans that are shifting active management of health care decisions to employees, according to the report.

The 2013 AWR found that more than half (53%) of employers have implemented a high-deductible health plan over the past three years — a trend that shows no sign of slowing. A 2012 Employer Health Plan Study by J.D. Power and Associates found that 47% of employers say they “definitely” or “probably” will switch to a defined contribution health care plan.

Yet, even with the shift towards HDHPs, defined contribution plans and the looming impact of state and private insurance exchanges, more than half of workers (55%) have done nothing to prepare for possible changes to the healthcare system, the report states.   

The U.S. government predicts that household out-of-pocket health care expenses will reach an average of $3,301 per year by 2014. Despite these figures, the 2013 AWR found that only 23% of workers are saving more in anticipation of potential increases in medical costs, nearly half (46%) have less than $1,000 in savings to use for out-of-pocket expenses associated with an unexpected serious illness or accident, and 25% of employees have less than $500.

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