Employees Fear Negative Health Coverage Outcomes

June 14, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Employees are strongly influenced by fear and insecurity when they make decisions about their health care options, according to new research.

A Towers Perrin news release said more than half of the survey respondents (52%) are negative about their current health coverage and most of those are intensely negative. Specifically, they worry that their current health plan doesn’t provide adequate financial protection, cover the services they need or may need, or deliver enough value for the cost.

Employees’ feelings about receiving health care are even more striking. The survey found that 60% express negative feelings because of fear about service quality and their ability to make good coverage decisions.

“This study offers a glimpse into the psyche of the US health care consumer, revealing high levels of insecurity and skepticism,” Dave Guilmette, Managing Director, Towers Perrin, said in the news release. “People are afraid, first of all, that their insurance won’t protect them against financial hardship in the event of unforeseen medical needs. They also have serious concerns about navigating the provider system – not finding the right doctor, not knowing which tests to take, what treatments are best or which hospitals would provide the best care.

In keeping with employees’ desire for predictable expenses, participants rank covered services highest in importance when selecting a health plan. Premium contributions and coinsurance also rank high on the list of issues they consider, according to the survey. Along these same lines, more employees (55%) are willing to take on a portion of the increases in the predictable components of cost than are willing to face the risks of reduced benefits (23%), according to Towers Perrin.

To counter the fear factor, the survey suggests that companies consider their employees’ emotional response when formulating and implementing their health care strategies. That will allow them to effectively align their interests with those of employees and create more positive employee health care decisionmaking and behavior.

In this survey, for example, among employees who said their company makes efforts to support affordable, quality care and good health for employees, over half (54%) qualified as relatively good health care consumers based on a set of 11 behavioral factors, such as carefully evaluating coverage options, having regular check ups and following doctors’ recommendations. Of those who regarded their company as not being committed to employee health, 36% reported behaviors that would qualify them as good consumers.

The more than 1,400 respondents covered by the survey work for midsize and large US companies and participate in a company health plan.