Employers hesitate to offer CDHPs

Lack of knowledge and desire to maintain status quo are barriers to offering these cost-saving plans

Almost 60 percent of respondents to a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management said they're "not comfortable" with their knowledge of consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs), and this could explain why these plans are slowly being implemented.

Less than half of respondents (42 percent) to the poll (which was sponsored by Aetna) said they offer CDHPs. "This type of health plan can be more complicated than a traditional plan, which is why they are only slowly growing in usage,"  says Mark Schmit, SHRM’s director of research. "Still, the greater investment in implementation and communication can be well worth it for both employees and organizations.”

Another reason companies are hesitant to offer CDHPs is because they don't want to disrupt the status quo regarding their employees' health benefit options. Almost half (49 percent) of HR professionals say their organization does not offer a CDHP because most employees are satisfied with their current health care benefits plan.

But SHRM emphasizes HRAs and HSAs that accompany these plans were established as an alternative for paying for health care expenses, and HSAs can also help with planning for retirement. [See Cost savings, improved wellness make the case for HSAs]

CDHPs also include access to informational tools that help consumers make informed decisions and encourage members to become more involved in their own health care, exercising greater control over how and where their health care dollars are spent. [See EBRI: CDHP enrollees more educated, healthier, earn more]

“Our research has shown that employees with these plans became more engaged and informed health care consumers, using preventive care services more frequently and visiting the emergency room for non-urgent care less than members in other plans,” said Christine Riedl, head of Enterprise Medical Products for Aetna.

“We also see lower health care costs for employers – especially when the employers have invested time in educational programs with employees. We realize that CDHPs can initially seem daunting, so we’re working to continually make them simpler and more intuitive to use.”

To help provide this education, SHRM will be hosting an informational webcast on August 2 at 2 p.m. ET. The webcast will be led by Riedl and will offer HR managers expert advice on understanding and selecting CDHPs, as well as educating management and employees about these options. The webcast will be accessible to SHRM members at www.shrm.org/webcast.

Among other highlights of the poll:

  • Many (77 percent) HR professionals find it challenging to engage employees in getting the best value from their plan and to encourage them to focus on their health and wellness. Interestingly, most of the HR professionals (77 percent) whose companies offer a CDHP say it has helped engage employees in their health and wellness.
  • A majority (77 percent) report that their organizations have cut health care costs by shifting them to employees in the form of higher monthly premiums or out-of-pocket costs. And some (35 percent) have reduced the scope or amount of overall benefits offerings.
  • Almost all HR professionals (94 percent) said employees consider health benefits an important part of their overall compensation and benefits package.

For more information on the poll findings, click here.

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