Fidelity Finds More Employees Conscious of Health Care Costs

September 16, 2004 ( - Fidelity Investments is reporting that American workers are indeed taking more responsibility in managing their health care costs.

In its annual enrollment study of 1,084 employees at large employers, Fidelity discovered that 88% of employees believed that people should aim for healthier lifestyles and 74% thought that Americans should be better shoppers for cheaper health-care services.

The Fidelity survey also found that personality traits – what it labeled early adopters, maximizers, evaluators, and complacents – have a large effect on health-care attitudes. Early adaptors, which make up 9% of the workforce, are considered the pace-setters and the most conscious of health-care costs. Maximizers, who comprise 27% of the workforce, are heavy users of health care services who, although cost conscious, are not willing to give up necessary service. Evaluators (33%) consider health options, but do not use services as much as the previous personality groups. Complacents (31%) have minimal health care needs and are disengaged from the health care process, the company said.

“Our findings suggest that employees’ health-care choices and usage habits are influenced by personality traits independent of demographic profiles,” said Brad Kimler, senior vice president, Fidelity Human Resources Services Company, in a news release. “Understanding the behaviors of the four personality profiles will help employers deliver more personalized health benefit options and help employees select the type of coverage that best fits their medical needs, preferences and lifestyles.”

Besides discerning differing personality traits and their attitudes towards health-care costs, Fidelity also identified three areas of sub-optimal usage.

The Fidelity survey found that only one-third of employees with an available flexible spending account (FSA) used it. Some 45% of those who chose not to use it cited the lack of year-end rollover as the reason not to do so. Not surprisingly, nearly one-third of employees did not know the options available through a FSA. The survey also found that in an effort to reduce health-care costs workers, are making changes in lifestyle. Sixty-two percent of employees reported trying to improve their diet in the last two years, while 47% reported trying to lose weight. However, only 26% of workers with chronic problems with health issues who have access to support programs use them. The study also found that 59% of respondents wished health plan information was more personalized to their needs.

“Employees across all four personality profiles can become more savvy consumers by simply learning more about the details of their plans,” continued Kimler. “Our study identified three specific areas where employees can further maximize their health benefits this annual enrollment season and throughout the year. These include using FSAs more effectively, adopting healthier lifestyles and increasing use of online support tools and resources.”