Most Using Employer Health Care Plan to Continue

May 24, 2010 ( – Most U.S. workers who use employer sponsored health care coverage plan to continue to do so in the future, according to a survey conducted jointly by the National Business Group on Health and Hewitt Associates.

The survey of more than 3,000 American workers and their dependents, conducted in March 2010, found that the majority of Americans (61%) currently use employer-sponsored health care coverage and participate in healthy living/wellness programs. Among those, nearly half (47%) plan to continue to do so in the next three-to-five years.  

However, 35% indicated they would consider dropping employer coverage if they were eligible to purchase similar coverage for a lower cost in the marketplace, according to a Hewitt news release.  

The survey also found a majority of workers and dependents are confused when it comes to which information to trust and what to do about their health. The top employee obstacles to making informed health care choices cited by respondents were not knowing which information to trust (58%), followed by confusion over what is covered by the plan (54%), not knowing how much things cost (47%), and ability to quickly see a doctor when needed (42%).  

Employees and their dependents are asking for more personalized communication that is relevant to them, the announcement said. Almost half (44%) want customized, targeted reminders that are appropriate for them based on factors such as their age and gender, 41% would like personalized health program recommendations, and 40% requested online personal health records.

Wellness Program Participation is Low  

The NBGH/Hewitt Associates survey found the majority (84%) of employees and their dependents said making smart choices in daily life leads to good overall health, and almost three-quarters (72%) think good health is a result of getting regular preventive care. However, only half of employees think they do a great or good job of eating healthy, while less than half (46%) reported doing a great or good job of exercising on a regular basis.  

While employees and dependents say they know what actions they need to take to get and stay healthy, participation in many employer-provided health improvement programs is not as high as employers would like. The most popular programs include biometric screenings (61%), followed by online health information tools (53%), and health risk questionnaires (41%).   

Stress management programs and employee assistance programs (EAPs) were the least popular, with just 9% participation in each, according to the news release.   

However, those workers who do take advantage of available programs, tools, and services are generally satisfied with them. The programs with the highest employee satisfaction rates include blood screenings (91%), on-site health centers (83%), and physical fitness programs (78%). Assistance with stress reduction/management and help with claims resolutions were among the programs with the lowest levels of satisfaction (60% and 59%, respectively).  

Many employers presume that offering cash incentives in exchange for participation will generate the best results and incent employees to participate in health care programs, but the survey found employees are equally motivated by both intrinsic factors and the use of incentives or penalties. Nearly half (48%) indicated they would complete a health risk questionnaire (HRQ) without any incentive because it is “the right thing to do.” Twenty-nine percent would participate in a HRQ for an incentive and almost the same number (28%) would complete it if there was a penalty.   

In addition, 44% of employees said they would participate in a wellness or health improvement program offered by their employer because it’s the right thing to do, while almost a third (32%) would participate if they were incented and 30% would participate under threat of a penalty.