Employers aren’t happy with their health insurers. Satisfaction with health plans has eroded in the past year, according to a survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). While 64% (about 2 in 3) of large employers were satisfied with their health plans in 2008, only 59% were in 2009.

PwC says, “What employers want from health insurers in 2010: Better information, more value,” which is the name of the report covering the survey.

As large employers morph to small ones, health benefits become much less important, the survey found. The smaller the company, the lower the satisfaction with health plans.

The two key components for rebuilding employer satisfaction with health plans are (1) meaningful data to help companies better control costs and improve health for employees; and, (2) better technology tools to empower employees in better caring for themselves.

PwC surveyed 100 large multinational employers and 130 private smaller companies for the report. In addition, the company interviewed 650 human resource execs as part of the company’s Health And Well-Being Touchstone Survey.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The recession has contributed to employers’ eroded satisfaction with health plans. In this climate, it is no surprise that most employers plan to increase cost-sharing among employees as a top #1 cost-control strategy.

To really move the needle and lower medical trend and rising health costs among employees, better information coupled with health information tools are crucial tools. On the IT side, as the chart shows, large employers are less satisfied with personal health records and online comparison tools. Yet interest in such tools is substantial. Employers get it; health plans need to deliver on this.

Coupled with data and tools, health consumers also need to be motivated to engage. It’s not simply a matter of discounting health club memberships to nudge people toward exercise. PwC suggests that HRAs alone won’t cut it — instead, PwC says to consider, “new engagement methods such as instant and constant feedback.”

This speaks to the power of knowing one’s numbers and becoming more conscious about tracking personal health data. Mobile and online tools are available; I began to use SparkPeople.com and it’s made a difference in my daily wellness regime and micro-choices. Designing value-based approaches to health plans is as much art as science; knowing what will move employee segments toward population health programs will require research and commitment, and most importantly, seeing employers and plans joining together with those very employees in a participatory health approach.

Note: SparkPeople is not a client of THINK-Health.