From the January 2009 issue of Benefits Selling Magazine •Subscribe!

Opinion

Stats reveal selling, not educating

I had a professor in j-school who loved to explain that "you can't spell news without new." The joke got old fast.

But most of what passes for news these days rarely meets that barest of litmus tests: "Economists officially declare recession," "Automakers ask for a federal handout," and "Media influences kids."

No kidding.

But an early press release from Colonial stopped me in my virtual tracks last week -- "Half of full-time employees don't understand health insurance coverage for cancer-related medical expenses."
Half? Can this be right? Apparently so, according to the numbers.

Harris Interactive -- at the behest of Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Co. -- polled more than 1,000 full-time employees and found a little more than half of working Americans with health insurance surveyed -- 51 percent -- say they don't have a clear understanding of what their health insurance covers for medical expenses related to cancer treatment.

On top of that, when asked if their health insurance would cover most of the expenses if they or a family member were diagnosed with cancer, 6 percent say no and 40 percent admitted that they had no idea.

"These responses point out the confusion employees have when it comes to understanding what their health insurance covers," explained Tom Gilligan, Colonial Life's senior vice president of marketing and branding. "People like to think they're covered, but when cancer gets personal, no one's really 100 percent sure."

I'm sorry, but whose fault is that? The buck needs to stop with the broker on this one. We talk all the time about educating employees rather than just selling them products, but we don't seem to be following our own advice.
According to the American Cancer Society, the American public forks out more than $219 billion a year in cancer costs, "and only 41 percent of these costs are direct costs covered by most major medical plans, such as hospital and doctors' charges and medications. The remaining 59 percent of costs are indirect costs the consumer pays for things like lost wages or salary, deductibles, travel expenses to and from treatment centers, child care, and lodging and meals."

Employees are on the hook for more of their own health care costs than ever before. Don't we owe it to them to explain what they're paying for and why?

Denis Storey
Editor
dstorey@benefitssellingmag.com

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