Some employees would rather clean toilet, do taxes instead of research health care benefits

As employers continue to load more health care expenses onto workers, more than half (53 percent) of employees are still choosing a major medical plan based on factors that may have little to do with the total cost of health care for which they are increasingly responsible. According to the 2015 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey, most workers (75 percent) at least somewhat agree that even with their health insurance coverage, their medical copays and other out-of-pocket costs are more than they can afford at times. In spite of this, however, a significant number of consumers lack the desire to research their insurance benefits.

Preference for other activities. Spending more time researching benefits choices and reading the fine print could help employees during this open enrollment period. Even though the terms of health insurance policies have likely changed, over half (56 percent) say they spend less than 30 minutes researching their benefits, and over one-third (34 percent) say they spend less than 15 minutes.

In fact, according to Aflac’s survey, many would rather do almost anything else than research their benefits. The survey found that:

• more than a third (38 percent) would rather clean out their email inbox,
• nearly one in four (23 percent) would rather clean their toilet, and
• eighteen percent would rather do their taxes.

Short-term gains, long-term financial pains? Workers’ concerns about their inability to meet health care-related financial obligations don’t necessarily translate into how they choose a health insurance plan. Nearly one-third (30 percent) of workers say monthly premiums are the most important factor when selecting their major medical plan each year, while almost 1 in 4 (23 percent) state that they are most concerned with whether their doctors/health providers participate in the plan. Although potentially high costs of coinsurance and deductibles can present significant risk to personal and family finances, only 16 percent view the percentage of coinsurance they’ll pay for health care services as the most important factor. Just 14 percent say it’s the amount of the annual deductible.

“Despite the shift to more consumer-directed health care, U.S. workers are still not moved by the full financial consequences of their health insurance choices during open enrollment,” said Matthew Owenby, senior vice president, chief human resources officer at Aflac. “In a perfect world, workers would weigh not only the monthly cost of an insurance plan, but also how much of the total cost of their health care they’ll be responsible for to cover any unexpected out-of-pocket costs. In a sense, they are rolling the dice with their financial future.”

High-deductible plans. Nearly half (46 percent) of employees selected a major medical/health insurance plan with a high deductible of $1,000 or more last year, up from 34 percent who said the same in 2014. And many who chose a high-deductible option were not satisfied with that choice. The survey found that:

• over half (52 percent) at least somewhat agree that they regret choosing a high-deductible health plan (HDHP),
• most (59 percent) at least somewhat agree that their HDHP was financially detrimental for themselves and/or their family,
• nearly half (48 percent) at least somewhat agree that they did not understand how an HDHP really works, and
• almost 4 in 10 workers (39 percent) noted their health insurance gives them some of the protection they need, but a serious illness or accident would still create a financial burden for them.

Coverage expectations. “By spending more time researching their options in order to better understand what the insurance plan pays for and what they’re liable for, consumers can make better choices and be better prepared for a serious health event. Employers can help too by providing additional options like a health savings account and voluntary insurance to help employees pay for the deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs,” said Owenby.


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