Workplace

Many workers aren’t ready for health care reform

Updated: 2013-09-25T14:28:14Z

By DIANE STAFFORD

The Kansas City Star

National health care reform and cost-cutting by employers is changing the way many workers get health insurance, but a majority of employees may not understand what’s ahead.

The Aflac WorkForces Report, the insurer’s third annual employee benefits study, polled 5,299 employees across the country and found that three-fourths said they had never heard the phrase “consumer-driven health care.”

That’s a problem. Consumer-driven health care is the direction the nation is moving. It’s the underlying concept that requires individuals to take more control over their health care spending.

“It may be referred to as ‘consumer-driven heatlh care,’ but in actuality, consumers aren’t the ones driving these changes, so it’s no surprise that many feel unprepared,” said Audrey Boone Tillman, executive vice president of corporate services at Aflac.

There’s another problem. The survey found that more than half of the workers polled said they preferred not to have greater control over their health insurance options. Fifty-four percent said they don’t have the time or knowledge to manage the responsibility.

How will workers learn to navigate the world of health care and insurance choices? Seventy-five percent said they expect their employers to educate them about the details of reform.

There’s another problem. Only 13 percent of the 1,884 “benefits decision-makers” in organizations reached in a companion poll said they thought educating employees about health care reform is “important” to their organizations.

At least most employees realize they’re not ready. About half said they fear they will leave their families less protected if they make poor insurance plan choices.

The poll, released Wednesday, emphasized the education challenges as employers shift away from their health care benefits.

One-third of the employees polled said they weren’t knowledgeable about health savings accounts, three-fourths said they weren’t knowledgeable about the impending federal or state health insurance exchanges, half said they weren’t knowledgeable about health reimbursement accounts and one-fourth said they weren’t knowledgeable about flexible spending accounts.

All of those are benefits options for employers to subsidize employee health care in different ways or exit health benefits entirely.

“It’s time for consumers to face reality,” Tillman said. “The responsibility lies in the hands of consumers to educate themselves.”

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com.

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