Employees Appear Ready For Consumer Choice Health Plans

September 10, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Even though the majority of US workers are happy with their health-care benefits, 44% say they would be somewhat likely to switch to a "consumer choice" health plan.

Much of this interest in a health plan shift is directly linked to what employees are paying in out-of-pocket expenses. Fifty-nine percent of those in the highest out-of-cost tiers said they would be “totally likely” to switch to a consumer choice plan – a plan designed to engage the consumer more directly in health care purchasing decisions – compared with 54% of those in the average cost bracket and 44% in the lower cost range, according to a study conducted by the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA).

Reaction from those offering the plans currently, 12% of larger companies, was also positive – with that number expected to grow to 13% of employers next year, and another 27% say they intend to do so sometime in the next five years. Of those currently offering the plans, 85% say their employees are “satisfied” with their consumer choice plan. Reasons given with the overall satisfaction was that these plans by employers was that they:

  • offer health-care at a lower premium and lower cost for both the employee and the company
  • have provided good customer service
  • provide employees with a wider choice of physicians and services and allow freedom of choice of providers
  • have no employee complaints filed against them.

For the most part, employers seem to think that workers are most enamored with a lower overall out-of-pocket cost to them (62%) as opposed to more choices of physicians and providers in the plan (28%) and both 7%. However, consumer data shows a split between more choices of physicians and providers in the plan (46%) and a lower overall out-of-pocket cost for the consumer (46%).

Consumers are apparently toeing the line for these plans as well. Although some employee benefits executives expressed concern about the complexity of the new plans, consumers consider themselves capable of assuming additional responsibility for their own health care choices, the surveys show.

The consumer survey questioned 600 privately insured adults under the age of 65. The employer survey asked for the opinions of 200 benefit executives at companies with more than 100 employees. More information can be found at http://www.hiaa.org/news/newsitem.cfm?ContentID=24822 .