Health Care Options Baffle Millennials, Parents

When people misunderstand their health care options, they may not spend their health care dollars optimally.

Health benefits drive job choices for over three-quarters of Americans, according to a recent online survey of American adults by Collective Health, a health insurance software provider.

The percentage of Americans who say competitive benefits would figure into their job choice jumps to 86% among those who currently have an employer-sponsored plan. But most are unprepared (60%) for an out-of-pocket medical expense of $5,000 and find their available health benefit options confusing (63%).

This plays out in health care spending, with 70% of emergency physicians reporting they’ve seen insured patients in the ER who have delayed seeking emergency care because of high co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles. And with most companies planning to reduce the richness of benefit offerings, American workers will shoulder a larger burden of health care costs: 85% of employers have implemented or are considering greater employee cost-sharing.

Employees with children (parents) and Millennial women proved to be the most affected. Eighty percent of Millennial women (ages 18 to 34) and 69% of parents with a child younger than 18 living at home said they are unprepared to handle $5,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses.

The survey found that 61% of Americans are often still confused by the available options for health care benefits, such as a preferred provider organization (PPO) versus a health maintenance organization (HMO), and flex spending accounts (FSA) versus health spending accounts (HSA). Millennials and parents with a child younger than 18 in the home admitted to being the most confused when it came to health care benefits. 

NEXT: Bewildered Millennials react by ignoring the whole thing.  

The survey results indicate that, although they are confused, Americans are not spending much, if any, time researching benefits. Seventy-nine percent spent less than an hour, and more than half spent less than half an hour researching benefits options during open enrollment.

While Millennials may be confused, Millennials are not interested in researching their health benefits. Nearly half (45%) would rather clean out their email than research their health benefits, and 22% would rather do taxes.

Additional findings from the report are: 

  • Two thirds of Americans (67%) agree that competitive health care benefits are more important to them than other workplace perks such as gym memberships, free food or standing desks.
  • The same lack of understanding around health care benefits also extends to the doctor’s office: three out of five (59%) U.S. adults have been confused by a bill they have received from a health care professional.
  • The majority of Americans want reliable health care coverage and are willing to pay a premium for it: two-thirds (66%) would prefer a plan that takes more out of their monthly paycheck but covers more of their medical bills.

“These findings are particularly relevant as 150 million Americans are once again starting a new employer-based health care plan,” says Rajaie Batniji, chief medical officer and co-founder, Collective Health. “While Americans increasingly demand competitive health care benefits in the workplace, a significant majority of them still don’t understand the options available to them, which can inadvertently expose them or their dependents to increased financial risk.”

The poll surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults (ages 18 and older) between December 3 and December 7, 2015, about whether health care benefits factored into their decisions about where to work, their overall understanding of the available health care benefits and options, and how prepared they are to shoulder out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Collective Health, in San Mateo, California, is a software and services company that manages health plans for self-insured employers. More information is on their website