Most employees covered by health insurance favor health plans that provide access to and cover alternative medicine services.
Yet only one-half of these employees feel it’s important for a health plan to require employees to eat properly and exercise, and to provide evidence of such healthy behavior.

There’s a disconnect in consumers’ minds between actual lifestyle behaviors and understanding how to use health benefits. I’ve talked about health plan literacy in Health Populi before. Guardian’s survey demonstrates a facet of that phenomenon.

According to the 2008 Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on Medical survey from Guardian Life Insurance Company, 76% of employees believe that alternative medical services should be covered by employer-based health insurance. Yet employers who already provide “wellness” services in have found that only a minority of employees — 3 in 10 — participate in these programs.

Alternative medicine services most desired include chiropractic (favored by 72% of employees), nutrition counseling (71%), acupuncture (57%), herbalism/botanical medicine (49%), and homeopathy (45%). Other services in demand by at least 1 in 3 employees include reflexology, personal training, osteopathy, yoga, and Pilates instruction.

Another facet of the survey asked employees what’s responsible for the rising costs of health care. Employees blamed: profits of drug companies (28%), lawsuits against physicians (14%), poor health of the population (10%), physician fees and salaries (9%) and obesity (9%).

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Employee’s disconnect between their behavior and benefits is compounded by this last datapoint: that it’s “others” responsible for rising health costs and not “me.” The fact is, Pogo, we are all to blame. Diabesity and ‘metabolic syndrome,’ lack of exercise and health engagement and positive lifestyle behaviors contribute mightily to high health costs in America. While there are other contributors, people need to take a good look in the mirror and take some responsibility. Guardian’s survey points to a lack of health engagement among the insured population on several levels: personal health, benefits management and financial planning, and personal responsibility.