Workers to Make More Health Choices in 2002

May 15, 2002 ( - US workers can expect two things to happen to their employer-provided health benefits in the next year or so: They'll have to make more consumer decisions about their insurance needs and shell out more to pay for the coverage.

Some 43% of employers responding to a poll of large employers by Watson Wyatt and the Washington Business Group on Health said they plan to increase the level of “consumerism” in their health plans during 2002. That compares with 19% that currently have such systems in place.

Not only that, many companies are no longer willing to absorb the often-crushing cost increases for health coverage.

The survey found that with health benefit costs expected to skyrocket by 14% this year, only a third of respondents say they will pick up the cost difference. That 34% is far fewer than the 50% willing to absorb the higher costs last year.

To help get employees ready for a more expensive environment in which they will be asked to make more health-care decisions, companies are increasingly planning education drives, the survey found.

For example,

  • 32% said they planned to give workers more information this year, compared to the 33% who say they are already doing so,
  • nearly a third said they will disseminate information on specific health-care issues, compared to the 25% who do so now, and
  • 18% will give out information on provider quality, compared to 17 this year 

The survey covered 292 large employers.

Copies of the survey are available on the Watson Wyatt Web site .