Workers Ready to Play Role in Health Cost Containment

May 24, 2007 ( - Even as health care costs continue their upward spiral, most workers say they are ready to live healthier lives to help control their treatment bills and so they can enjoy a healthier retirement.

A Watson Wyatt news release about its survey of nearly 2,100 U.S. workers said the poll found that more than half (51%) of respondents are highly concerned that they won’t be able to pay for health care coverage when they retire.

More than one-third (35%) of respondents are concerned that a major medical expense would lead to their financial ruin. Many workers are also worried about the impact of rising costs in the near term. Two in three (68%) believe their deductibles and copayments will increase in the next two years; more than half are worried that their employer will reduce their health benefits coverage.

According to the survey, 12% of workers have reduced contributions to their retirement savings plans because of higher health care costs, while 18% have cut back on contributions to other savings. About one in four workers also reported higher stress levels due to rising health care costs.

The majority (61%) of workers say they see a connection between maintaining a healthy lifestyle and controlling cost increases. Moreover, many employees are willing to make changes in their lifestyle to improve their current health status – 31% are in the process of doing so, and 27% are considering making a change.

The survey found that six in ten employees have tried to take better care of themselves, with 37% getting an annual physical. In addition, 42% are attempting to control health expenditures by choosing a lower-cost drug option when available.

The Watson Wyatt survey, “Employee Perspectives on Health Care: Voice of the Consumer,” was conducted in January 2007. A total of 2,099 randomly selected workers participated in the survey. All respondents were full-time U.S. employees of large, nongovernmental companies who participate in their employer-sponsored health plan.