This figure is up 6% from 2004, according to a study by Hewitt Associates. Health savings accounts (HSAs) are less commonly used, according to the company, with only 3% of those offered such plans opting to use them. Enrollment in flexible spending accounts (FSAs) is not much higher, with the average participation rate when such plans are offered at 16%. The average contribution to such plans for 2005 was $1,188.
The use of online tools to make health care decisions has made an impact, the study reports, with 46% of those who use at least one tool choosing a different medical plan option in 2005. The percentage increases to almost 60% when more than one tool is used. Tool-usage was higher for those enrolled in consumer-driven plans, and, on the other side, those who use tools are more likely to enroll in such plans.
The most popular tools used in 2005 are:
- health plan comparison charts, which allow cost and coverage comparisons. Fifty-four percent of employees used them, up from 44% last year. Eighty-six percent thought this tool was helpful.
- provider directories, which show employees which hospitals and doctors are included in the plans. These were used by 34% of employees, up 11% from last year.
- health care costs summaries, which use claim data to show total health care expenses, were used by 20% of employees.
- health care spending calculators were used by 13%, up 2% from last year. An overwhelming majority (82%) of employees who used them found them helpful.
Online enrollment is also increasingly prevalent, with 82% doing so via the internet in 2005, according to Hewitt. This is up 5% from last year. Other avenues of enrollment suffered, with customer service centers (16% in 2005, compared to 19% in 2004) and interactive voice response (2% from 4%) losing customers.
Hewitt Associates ( www.hewitt.com ) is a human resources outsourcing and consulting service which administers benefits for 18 million employees and their families.