Employees Waver on Understanding Health Care Coverage

July 9, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The greatest challenge for U.S. workers in understanding their health care plans is being able to discuss exactly what the plan covers, a recent Watson Wyatt survey revealed.

According to the survey of nearly 2,100 workers, 43% admit to having this problem. Workers reported being most comfortable describing their plan’s co-pay (49%) and deductible (46%).

However, workers’ comfort level dwindles in understanding other aspects of their health plans, with only 36% saying they would be most comfortable describing their flexible spending account, out-of-pocket maximum (35%), lifetime maximum (27%), health savings account (24%), coinsurance (22%), formulary (16%), and center of excellence (8%).

“It’s hard for employers to ask employees to take more responsibility for their health care when they are not speaking the same language,” said Kathryn Yates, global director of communication consulting at Watson Wyatt, in a news release. “Helping employees improve their health care literacy and learn the terminology can make or break a company’s health care efforts overall.”

The survey also found that most employees would rather receive a print version of their employee benefits, with nearly 70% saying this was the case, but nearly as many said they would prefer receiving information via the Internet (64%) and 46% say they would rather have face-to-face

Just more than half (52%) of employees read all the materials provided by their employer during the annual health care enrollment process. About 3% admitted to not reading any of the materials and the remainder reads either only what is needed to enroll or only information about changes to the plans.