Employees Question Making Right Health Plan Choice on Their Own

Employees Question Making Right Health Plan Choice on Their OwnHaving a choice of several health plans is important to workers, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) study, “Views on Employment-Based Health Benefits: Findings from the 2014 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey.” Although the research revealed most employees would like more choices than they currently have, the majority (85%) reported they believe their unions or employers selected the best health plan available.

“But they are not as confident in their ability to choose the best available plan if their employers or unions did, in fact, stop offering coverage,” Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program, pointed out.

Surveyed employees indicated they weren’t highly comfortable using a rating system to choose health insurance on their own. They also expressed doubt that a rating system could help them decide on the best health insurance.

When workers do choose between offered plans, the cost of premiums and cost-sharing are top factors influencing their decisions – over 80% of those surveyed said those were their major considerations. Employees also expressed concerns about plans with high out-of-pocket limits, the list of in-network doctors and hospitals where they could receive treatment under their health plans, prescription coverage, and exclusions.

While most employees were satisfied with their current health benefits, approximately one-third said they were interested in changing the current mix of benefits and wages offered by their organizations. Specifically, the survey noted a growing interest in swapping benefits for wages. In fact, between 2012 and 2014, the number of workers who would give up benefits for cash nearly doubled. Almost 20% of employees reported they would give up health benefits to getting higher wages while about 12% would take less pay for more health benefits.

“This growing interest in trading benefits for wages may reflect an intensifying desire for real wage growth in the wake of the great recession,” said Fronstin, who co-authored the report.

Other Key Findings From the EBRI Study:
  • Workers polled stated that the benefits package an employer offers prospective workers is extremely (32%) or very (44%) important in their decision to accept or reject a job offer. However, 34% reported they are only somewhat satisfied with the benefits offered by their current employer and 22% said they are not satisfied.
  • 86% of workers surveyed stated employment-based health insurance is extremely or very important and they ranked it as more important than any other workplace benefit. This finding has remained constant following passage and enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) which raised questions about whether employers will continue to offer health coverage to their workers in the future.
  • Survey participants said having access to health insurance through their employer is so important that almost 6 in 10 (58%) are planning to continue working longer than they would like in order to keep their health insurance coverage through their employer. When asked why continuing to receive health insurance through their employer was important enough to delay retirement, 43% cited the cost of insurance if they had to purchase it on their own, another 15% cited the cost of medical care, and six percent pointed out the high quality of the insurance offered through their workplace.
  • Should employer-sponsored benefits become taxable, almost 50% of employees said they would keep their current coverage, a seven percent increase from 2012. More than a quarter said they would change to a cheaper employer-provided plan while 20% would shop for benefits directly from an insurer. Only seven percent said they would drop their coverage, the survey found.

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