Employee Health Care Info Important in Consumerism Drive

April 13, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Key information like costs, quality of care and communications tools like personalized benefits statements can make a real difference in how much workers understand about their health benefits.

That was a key conclusion of a new survey by Wells Fargo, 2005 Trends in Employer Sponsored Health Benefits Survey Analysis, which also found an employer annual cost increase slowdown from15% in 2003 to 12% in 2004. The survey was conducted by Wells Fargo companies Acordia, Inc and Bryan, Pendleton, Swats & McAllister (BPS&M), a Wells Fargo Institutional Trust’s benefits consulting group.

A Wells Fargo news release said that the study concludes that employers must show employees what health care benefits really cost, information on the quality of health care providers, and give them the tools needed to make wise health care buying decisions. Employers are increasingly counting on various types of consumer driven health plans as a key component of their health benefits cost-cutting efforts.

The announcement said that survey findings included:

  • that how employers communicate about health care plans influences how well employees understand the true cost of their benefits. Meetings were given the highest value ranking as a communication method among employers. “The Internet is a good resource for information but nothing is more effective than employee meetings for effective health plan enrollment,” said Dennis Donahue, Acordia’s national benefits practice leader in the news release. “During the enrollment process, employees benefit most by receiving initial information on the Internet, but they need the personal touch through group or person-to-person meetings to ensure that they understand their benefits.”
  • that an important step in empowering employees to make wise purchasing decisions is to provide them with comparative information about the quality of different providers. Yet, less than half of employers surveyed requested quality of care data from their broker or consultant on networks and physicians. Fewer than 4% ranked health care quality issues as a “major issue” and only one in four considered it a significant one.
  • that larger organizations are more willing to educate employees on health care costs. Respondents with more than 500 employees were more than twice as likely to provide employee education in print media.

The tenth employee benefits survey conducted by BPS&M surveyed 414 employers representing 378,631 employees, of whom 339,105 are eligible for health care benefits. Respondents represent a variety of organizations of all sizes and from all regions of the US, with a concentration among private employers with one to 500 employees.

For complete survey results, contact Amanda Kelly at 615-665-5345 or at Amanda.B.Kelly@bpsm.com .