Employees Are Not Ready For CDHPs: Survey

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the American workforce has not heard of the phrase “consumer-driven health care,” according to recent research from Aflac. The survey, 2013 Aflace WorkForces Report (AWR), noted that employees are not prepared to take greater control, handle rising costs, and make decisions regarding their health care. The survey also found:

• More than half (54 percent) of workers would prefer not to have greater control over their insurance options because they do not have the time or knowledge to effectively manage it;

• 62 percent of workers believe the medical costs they will be responsible for will increase, while only 23 percent are saving money for potential increases; and

• 75 percent of workers said they think their employer would educate them about changes to their health care coverage as a result of health care reform, but only 13 percent of employers said educating employees about health care reform was important to their organization.

“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,” said Audrey Boone Tillman, executive vice president of 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.”

New decisions daunting. As consumers are confronted with more health care decisions, Aflac found that many workers already find health insurance decisions daunting and have reservations about taking greater control. Fifty-three percent 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 percent admitting they choose the same benefits year over year, but many do not understand the options provided to them.

Among consumers:

• 32 percent are not very/not at all knowledgeable about health savings accounts (HSA);

• 76 percent are not very/not at all knowledgeable about federal and state health care exchanges;

• 49 percent are not very/not at all knowledgeable about health reimbursement accounts (HRA); and

• 25 percent are not very/not at all knowledgeable about flexible spending accounts (FSA).

Cost shifting. To control health care expenses, businesses are choosing new health plans that are shifting active management of health care decisions to employees. According to the report, 53 percent of employers have implemented a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) over the past three years.

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 percent) have done nothing to prepare for possible changes to the health care system. 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 percent of workers are saving more in anticipation of potential increases in medical costs, 46 percent have less than $1,000 in savings to use for out-of-pocket expenses associated with an unexpected serious illness or accident, and 25 percent of employees have less than $500.

The survey contains responses from 1,900 benefits decision-makers and 5,200 U.S. workers. For more information, visit http://www.aflac.com/us/en/docs/insights/aflac_prtemplateawr2013.pdf.