According to the 2013 Open Enrollment Survey from insurance provider Aflac, a large number of American workers remain unaware and unprepared for upcoming changes to their benefits coverage. The survey found that 69% of workers said their employer hasn’t communicated changes coming to their benefits package due to health care reform, this despite the October 1 deadline for employers to notify their employees of their coverage options.
Only 9% of companies indicate they are very prepared to implement required changes to their business, as per the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), at this time. Although the implications of health care reform are yet to be seen, the survey found that some employers (41%) believe more gaps in coverage will be created and 69% believe costs to employees will increase as a result of health care reform.
“At the heart of this issue is the fact that many workers will be blindsided this open enrollment season because we know they already struggle with understanding their insurance policies today, and in covering the high out-of-pocket costs from gaps in their current coverage,” said Michael Zuna, Aflac’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.
“Over the next few months, these challenges will be exacerbated as employees may be more confused by changes in their policies, and face greater gaps in their health insurance coverage leaving them at risk. With little notice, education and coverage options to help guide and support them during this season, employers themselves may be at risk of a highly dissatisfied workforce,” he added.
The survey also found that:
- About three-quarters (74%) of workers sometimes or never understand everything that is covered by their insurance policy today;
- Nearly four in 10 (37%) workers think it will be more difficult to understand everything in their health care policy with the changes dictated by health care reform;
- Nearly one-third (28%) of employees are confused, worried or unsure about the changes their employer are making to their health care coverage or benefits options due to health care reform; and
- Over half of workers (60%) have not begun to educate themselves about coming changes to their benefits package due to health care reform.
“The good news is there is an opportunity for employers who take a proactive role in helping employees effectively maneuver this new benefits landscape to make significant gains in worker satisfaction and retention levels,” said Zuna. “Through aggressive education and communication efforts, as well as leveraging ancillary benefits options to offer workers additional options to close growing gaps in their insurance coverage, employers can help their workforce make the right benefits choices and protect their well-being.”
Zuna recommended that in addition to encouraging employees to do their own homework on the subject, employers should take advantage of available resources to help employees navigate this topic, including informational, on-site visits from an insurance agent or broker. Employers can also undertake educational initiatives such as:
- Mailing benefits materials to employees’ homes so they can discuss their options with their family members;
- Hosting a town-hall meeting with a benefits adviser to discuss changes and answer questions that apply to the group;
- Encourage one-on-one meetings with employees who have more specific questions;
- Conducting educational webinars to reach all employees regardless of location; and
- Posting FAQs in high-traffic areas such as employee break rooms, cafeterias and bathrooms.
Aflac itself offers materials online related to health care reform including a communications tool kit, an employer’s guide, essential facts and insights on consumer-driven health care. This material can be found here.
The survey was conducted online by Research Now, on behalf of Aflac, in August 2013. Over 2,000 consumers in the United States were interviewed.