Consumer Health Plans Get Qualified Thumbs Up

September 10, 2004 ( - While consumer driven health plans seem to be having beneficial effects, employers responding to a new survey reported that they are far from perfect.

While 76% of respondents to Deloitte Consulting’s 2004 Consumer Driven Health Care survey asserted that that the plans do – in fact – prompt employees to make more cost-efficient health-care purchases, 52% said the plans can have complex and confusing designs. Results were close about whether the plans actually mostly benefit healthy workers with 42% saying they did not and 36% asserting they did.

Seven of 10 employers said only a portion of their workforce give the consumer plans a thumbs up. Among employees and their dependents 60% were satisfied with the plan while about a third were neutral and 8% were “mildly” dissatisfied.

Meanwhile, more than 80% of both senior management and HR officials were reported to be satisfied with the plans. Middle management was closer to the average of employees with 63% satisfied; a third neutral and 4% dissatisfied.

Employers’ responses about whether the consumer-based plans actually work – by saving companies money through less costly employee health-care buying patterns – were far from unanimous. Just under half (47%) reported seeing immediate cost savings while 52% either didn’t find such efficiencies or were neutral on the issue, according to Deloitte.

However 46% of employers felt the plans would reduce health-care cost trends over the long term while 27% asserted they would not do so.

Having a plan in place seem to bring more employees into the CDHP fold. Of those who are in the second year of offering a consumer-oriented plan, eight in 10 saw an increase in enrollment. The rest reported enrollment about the same as in 2003 and no one experienced a decline in enrollment.

The survey covered 314 employers including 19% who offered a consumer-driven health plan.