Survey: Consumers Questioning Health Care Costs

July 18, 2003 ( - Health care participants are no strangers to rising medical insurance costs, leading many to seek more cost basis information than in the past.

Indeed, cost information has now supplanted health provider quality as the information most desired among a majority of consumers. With the shift, insurers and employers are feeling pressured to make the data more readily available and understandable than in the past, according to the 2003 Consumer-Directed Health Care Survey, a study from The Dieringer Research Group, in conjunction with the Pareto Health Group.

“We were surprised to find consumers valuing health cost information ahead of provider quality information,” said Bob Dieringer, president of The Dieringer Research Group. “This represents a significant change from their historical need and preference for drug and diagnostic information. The finding should send a signal to employers and insurers who feel compelled to simply pass along rising health insurance costs to their employees.”

Other studies have also shown that employees are aware of their expanding share of the benefits tab. A study by Eastbridge Consulting found that o ver half of the most popular employee benefits are now shared costs for the employee and the employer. In fact, c ost-sharing has become the norm in medical insurance (offered by over 99% of employers), prescription drug coverage (offered by 94% of employers) and dental insurance (81% of employers offering) (See Employees See More of Their Benefits Cost ).

Further, offered by more than a third of those polled by Eastbridge were employer-pay-all benefits such as:

  • Group term life
  • Accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D)
  • Long-term disability
  • Short-term disability.

Mercer HR Consulting found similar results, with one in four employers in Mercer’s study – and nearly half (49%) of large employers – responding that employees will pay a larger share of health-plan costs in 2003. Moreover, one-fifth of all employers, and 44% of large employers, said that in 2003 they would shift more costs to employees through plan design changes in any type of medical plan (See Employers Near Pain “Threshold” on Health Care: Mercer ).

CDH Solution

As consumers look to limit rising medical costs, the trend toward providing more flexible insurance plan options seems likely to continue to grow in importance. At the forefront of this forecast are health insurance plan components packaged as consumer-directed health (CDH) plans.

However, the problem seems to be with getting the word out about CDH. Not only is there a lack of consensus about what constitutes a CDH plan, but there remains a slow startup in terms of consumer adoption of these programs. For example, the Dieringer survey found that only 9% of insured employees are familiar with CDH plans.

By comparison:

  • More than two-thirds are aware of PPO and HMO plans
  • One in five have heard of defined contribution plans
  • One in three are cognizant of health spending accounts.

Some analysts have projected that CDH plans could capture as much as 15% of the overall health insurance market within five years. However, the survey findings suggest that demand for components of CDH plans may outpace demand for the actual plans, themselves, unless the market settles on a successful standard package for CDH plans, the Dieringer study found.

Detailed survey findings are available to sponsors of the 2003 Consumer-Directed Health Care Survey. For more information, contact: Pam Renick at (800) 489-4540.