Two in 3 employees (62%) can’t estimate how much their employers spend on health benefits. Of those who could estimate the number (which is, on average, about $12,000 according to the 2012 Milliman Medical Index), most weren’t very confident in their guess. Some 23% calculated the monthly spend by employers was less than $500 a month — less than 50% the actual contribution.

Thus, most U.S. health consumers don’t fully value the amount of cash their employers spend on their health care, according to a poll from the National Business Group on Health, Perceptions of Health Benefits in a Recovering Economy: a Survey of Employees.

Beyond this math, insured workers aren’t confident in their ability to shop for any insurance on their own. To them, ability to buy a plan on a health insurance exchange is not a welcome scenario.

While wellness programs are generally valued by employees, less healthy workers are very sensitive to their ability to change health behaviors, as the chart illustrates. 75% of very healthy workers believe that employees that maintain good health should receive a reward, compared with 59% of less healthy workers. Employees generally oppose linking the cost of their health plan to wellness program participation or improved health, the survey says. The key data point here is that over 80% of insured employees believe in offering a financial reward to employees that meet specific health goals — but only 29% believe in charging employees more for health coverage if they don’t meet health goals.

NBGH polled 1,545 consumer respondents who had health insurance through their employer or union, worked with a large company (at least 2,000 employees), were involved in health decisions in their homes, and were between ages 22 and 69.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  The health insurance marketplace is moving in the direction away from patriarchal defined benefit to more defined contribution, consumer-facing and -responsible high-deductible health plans. As workers are paying more out-of-pocket already, they’re still not getting more health plan or health finance literate.

Still, 64% of workers say that the health benefit is the most important benefit provided by employers, based on the survey result. A distant second is the retirement plan, cited as #1 by 21% of workers.

Workers continue to highly prize the health benefit. Employers must educate employees in the subject of Health Plan 101, communicating (in an engaging way) the value of the benefit, how to best use it  — especially in terms of high-deductible plans and how prevention and early diagnosis can save resources over the long haul. There is growing evidence that health consumers aren’t rationally using HDHPs and CDHPs, forgoing necessary care to ‘save’ funds.

As NBGH recommends, “Employers also need to make a case for the importance of wellness programs and lifestyle changes and how poor health not only hurts the people directly affected but also drives up everyone’s costs, making care increasingly unaffordable.”

It takes a village to bend the cost curve, and the employee-health consumer plays a starring role, via health engagement.

12 Comments on The U.S. health consumer is health-finance illiterate, and resistant to linking wellness to health plan costs

Most Employees Don’t Understand Company Insurance Plans said : Guest Report 9 years ago

[…] Recent reports have illustrated a lack of knowledge and confidence employees have in understanding their health benefits, how to navigate their health plans, and how to identify the best value for their particular plan. Two-thirds of employees polled were not confident about shopping for their own health benefits in lieu of employer-provided plans. And a large number of employees currently choose to utilize their health plans when it’s absolutely necessary (read: when there is an emergent health problem), as opposed to routine wellness or preventive care visits. […]

Quick Wart Removal with Wartrol said : Guest Report 10 years ago

Aohsuia Quick Wart Removal with Wartrol koauodid!

The U.S. health consumer is health-finance illiterate, and resistant to linking wellness to health plan costs | said : Guest Report 10 years ago

[...] [...]

Aetna finds consumers aren’t very empowered in health | Health Populi said : Guest Report 10 years ago

[...] benefit documentation handed them at health plan election time, and continue to be challenged by health plan illiteracy – that is, not understanding how to use HSAs, MSAs, and other facets of consumer-directed [...]

Marta Bruns said : Guest Report 10 years ago

I agree that more education and awareness is needed for employees. I also believe that some education needs to also come from the physicians. I agree with Dan's comment regarding the network access and limited information. I don't know if we will ever resolve the heatlhcare crisis in America.

offshore banking said : Guest Report 10 years ago

Last March, Webcor signed up with Limeade, a wellness company based in Bellevue, Wash., and started soliciting "challenges" from employees -- ideas for co-workers to meet certain health and fitness-related goals. Starting this year, a new committee will vet ideas that come in.

The U.S. health consumer is health-finance illiterate, and resistant to linking wellness to health plan costs | The Doctor Weighs In said : Guest Report 10 years ago

[...] posted on Health Populi on [...]

DeAndre' Morris said : Guest Report 10 years ago

Jane, I found your article to be very enlightening, and I do appreciate your posting this. This is my first occurrence ever hearing about employee health behaviors affecting employer health insurance benefits. Me personally, I currently do not have health insurance from my employer, and reading this article makes me feel like declining the offer during the next enrollment period. What I can take from this article is the fact that group insurance plans--such as one of a major company for its employees--and private insurance plans--such as the one I possess--have different regulations when it comes to the health behaviors of the recipient. I do realize that insurance providers want to know more discreet details on a person's lifestyle in regards to their health, and frame it as a "health risk assessment." I can't see how the information on the chart above is sufficient, when most people lie on those things anyway. My cynical bottom line is health insurance costs are going to keep increasing, whether a high percentage have a clean bill of health or not. It's the government's way of collecting more revenue to suffice its deep debt deficiency we currently are buried in.

Patrick Tice said : Guest Report 10 years ago

Not all readers are insiders in healthcare finance. A bit less jargon would be appreciated. Oh, well... Google.

Dan Ross said : Guest Report 10 years ago

Thank you Jane: I'd be pleased to share actual data anytime with you. I agree of the critical nature of member education. It's surprising how many members recieve non-optimal care. One major component of poor health decision making for the top 5% is depression, either undiagnosed or not treated. Another problem afflicting this group are the huge open access networks of providers, each without the ability to see what's going on with the patient. I frequently identify members seeing 20-30 physicians per year. I'm a big fan of health advocates coaching members through the maze of health providers/options. In no area is this more important than cancer!

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