As the health care market shifts toward individual responsibility, a survey found many workers are overwhelmed by the complexity of their health care options and many have a poor understanding of the benefits of health savings accounts (HSAs).
We recently reported an uptick in HSA participation and investment (among millennials) according to the second annual “State of Employee Benefits” report by Benefitfocus. Here is additional research from the “State of Denial” survey of more than 1,000 health care consumers of all ages, in which health care solutions provider Alegeus found many individuals don’t have adequate knowledge about their health insurance coverage – and particularly HSAs.
Further, the survey found:
- 70 percent of HSA account holders can’t pass a basic proficiency test on the product,
- 41 percent don’t know they can invest HSA dollars, and
- 26 percent don’t know they can use funds beyond the immediate plan year.
“There is greater adoption of HSAs and health reimbursement arrangements, but we have a great deal of distance to go before people are empowered and informed health care consumers,” John Young, CEO of ConsumerDriven, told Employee Benefit News.
The survey also found:
- 66 percent of consumers rate planning for out-of-pocket costs as the most challenging and stressful aspect of managing their health care,
- 50 percent don’t know how to predict current or future out-of-pocket health care costs or determine the appropriate savings vehicle or rate,
- 23 percent don’t save beyond the plan year, and the majority underfund their health care savings.
“There is also a dichotomy of what people say is important and what they really do,” Young told Employee Benefit News. “There are a number of people who say, ‘I am going to do more, I will take a more active role in my health care,’ but when you look at the results, very few people sign up for the tools that are available to them.”
Additionally, more than 75 percent of consumers are fearful of their health care finances. This hinders consumers from taking ownership of their health care finances. It’s evident that consumers need significant support to overcome these fears, the authors wrote.
The survey found:
- 51 percent of consumers fear being hit with an unexpected, unaffordable health care expense before they’ve built their health care savings,
- 46 percent fear they may not be able to afford the health care their family needs, and
- 45 percent fear they may not be saving appropriately because they don’t know how much they are likely to spend.
The reasons for this confusion involve the abundance of health insurance plans, confusing and contradictory options, and complex technical jargon.
“This research affirms that consumers feel the impact of the consumerism movement in health care and they need help to manage their increased financial responsibilities,” Alegeus CEO Steven Auerbach told Employee Benefit News. “There is tremendous opportunity for the future winners in health care to create a real environment that supports and guides consumers.”
To address this situation, the benefits industry must improve its outreach efforts to employees. That’s where USI’s expert account management and communication resources come in. USI can help employers develop simplified content with clear explanation to help empower employees to utilize their benefits to the maximum capacity.
“It is clear there is work to do to bridge the gap between what consumers say they want and what they’re properly equipped and motivated to do,” the authors wrote. “Consumers believe health care providers can improve their personal health care experience.”
The survey found:
- 50 percent of consumers surveyed want personal guidance to answer questions, make recommendations and validate thinking
- 44 percent want simple explanations and content
- 34 percent want greater transparency and key information
- 29 percent want incentives to steer them to the right choices
- 20 percent want interactive decision-support tools, digital channel support and on-demand educational content.
“I think the industry does a fair job of bringing the information to the individuals, but we need to do a better job of reaching people where they are to really help them understand it,” Young said.