Employees Need Education About Health Care Changes

April 25, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Aflac’s 2013 WorkForces Report (AWR) found that most employees are not prepared to manage their own health care plan.

When it comes to the impending health care reform, Aflac’s report found a significant disconnect between employers’—and their work forces’—expectations, and the actions they are taking to prepare. Three-quarters of responding workers said they think their employer will provide information on how their health care coverage will change, but only 13% of employers reported that educating employees about the regulation changes is a priority for their company.

While more than half (53%) of employers have implemented a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) over the past three years, more than half of workers (55%) have done nothing to prepare for upcoming changes to the health care system.

According to the report:

  • More than seven in 10 (72%) workers were unfamiliar with consumer-driven health care;
  • Five out of 10 (53%) fear they will be unable to adequately manage their coverage, leaving their families less protected than they are now;
  • More than half (54%) of workers would prefer not to have greater control over their insurance options because they do not have the time or knowledge to effectively manage it; and
  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of workers believe the medical costs they will be responsible for will increase, but only 23% are saving money for potential increases.

The 2013 AWR found that only 23% of workers are saving more in anticipation of potential increases in medical costs, nearly half (46%) have less than $1,000 in savings to use for out-of-pocket expenses associated with an unexpected serious illness or accident, and 25% of employees have less than $500. 

“Consumers aren’t the ones driving these changes, so it’s no surprise that many feel unprepared,” said Audrey Boone Tillman, executive vice president of Corporate Services at Aflac. 

According to the report, among consumers:

  • Roughly one-third (32%) are not very/not at all knowledgeable about health savings accounts (HSAs);
  • Three out of four (76%) are not very/not at all knowledgeable about federal and state health care exchanges;
  • Almost half (49%) are not very/not at all knowledgeable about health reimbursement accounts; and
  • One quarter (25%) are not very/not at all knowledgeable about flex spending accounts (FSA).

“If consumers aren’t educated about the full scope of their options,” Tillman warned, “they risk making costly mistakes without a financial back-up plan.”

Aflac’s third annual WorkForces Report is a national study—conducted in January 2013 by Research Now—that analyzes forces impacting the trends, attitudes and use of employee benefits. The 2013 AWR results are from an online survey of nearly 1,900 benefits decisionmakers and more than 5,200 U.S. workers. More information on the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report is available here


Sara Kelly