Study Shows Lack of Understanding Benefits Impacts Decisions

 September 13, 2011 ( – New research from the Open Enrollment Survey of the Aflac WorkForces Report shows more than three-quarters (76%) of American workers who make decisions about benefits coverage during open enrollment admit to making mistakes about their benefits decisions.

 In addition, 42% of workers say they have wasted money each year because of mistakes they made with their insurance benefits, and more than four-in-five of them say they are at least somewhat concerned about the possibility of an unexpected medical expense, considering their current financial situation.

Aflac conducted an online survey of 2,220 U.S. adults ages 18+, of whom 980 were employed full/part time and responsible for insurance decisions. The survey was conducted in August 2011by Harris Interactive.

Among other key discoveries, the study uncovers the primary ways Americans make costly mistakes in benefits decisions and reveals the impact Americans' concerns about unanticipated out-of-pocket expenses are having on their lifestyles.

"Far too many American workers are making avoidable mistakes in benefits coverage decisions — from not meeting deductible amounts to contributing too little to Flexible Spending Accounts — and, as a result of their lack of understanding or confusion, they often pay a price in multiple ways," said Audrey Tillman, Executive Vice President of Corporate Services at Aflac.

For example, in terms of cost-bearing mistakes and their consequences, the most common include not electing available benefit coverage such as vision, dental or voluntary, choosing the wrong level of coverage, and putting too little in a flexible spending account. As a result of paying unexpected out-of-pocket medical costs, 65% of workers have had to make sacrifices, including cutting back on social activities (40%), luxury items (34%), purchasing gifts (29%), and taking a vacation (28%). Others admitted to working more hours (21%), creating a strict household budget (21%), and increasing use of credit cards or line of credit (19%).

Seventy-four percent of workers say that when thinking about their choices for major medical insurance coverage, they only sometimes or rarely or never understand everything that is covered by their policy — while slightly more than half (59%) of workers who choose the same benefits year after year say they only sometimes or rarely or never have a full understanding of the changes in the policies each year. Although most do not fully understand their health care insurance policies, workers are worried about unexpected medical expenses. In fact, 83% of workers say they are at least somewhat concerned about the possibility of an unexpected medical expense, with 30% saying they are extremely/very concerned, considering their current financial situation.

To view the study results, visit