Health reform may spur better engagement for open enrollment
Whereas in the past employees mostly neglected their health care benefits elections, this year nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say health care reform has encouraged them to review their health benefits more closely during open enrollment, finds a new survey.
Half of respondents to the United Healthcare survey acknowledge that in the past they usually spent only an hour or less reviewing their health benefit options. That’s changing for a majority of consumers who have listened intently to the debate over health care and are applying the critical eye they’ve cast on politicians’ arguments to their benefits.
"Open enrollment season is a great learning opportunity, but that learning environment must be a two-way street," says Austin Pittman, United Healthcare’s chief growth officer who also leads the company’s open enrollment activities.
"Just as we encourage people to closely examine their health benefits and ask questions, it’s also important that employers and insurers communicate clearly about the different options that are available. Consumers who better understand their health care options make better health decisions, which can lead to better personal health and well-being," he adds.
The national telephonic survey analyzed responses from nearly 1,000 adults age 18 or older and who receive their health coverage through their or a family member’s employer.
Despite this growing interest in their benefits, 40% of Americans—and 48% of 18 to 34 year olds—report they only “somewhat” understand their health benefits but want to learn more, or do not understand them at all.
Employers can take steps to decrease this percentage by simplifying their language to describe benefits, as suggested by 77% of respondents. In addition, 69% say they would like their employers to provide new types of educational materials, such as interactive or multimedia.
The most popular methods for learning about health benefits are through brochures or print materials that describe their benefits (31% cite this as the most preferable mode) and an easy-to-understand Web site that teaches them about their benefits (29%). Among 18 to 34 year olds, a Web site is the most preferred method (44%).
In comparison to the lack of time previously taken to research enrollment materials and elect health benefits, Americans spend on average 10 hours researching a new car and five hours researching a mortgage, finds a May 2010 survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Zillow Mortgage Marketplace.
Hopefully, the national dialogue around health care in America will encourage more consumers to educate themselves about their health benefits this open enrollment season as they would a new car or plasma TV.
Source: Employee Benefit News