Despite all the hullaballoo about health care reform and public health insurance exchanges, less than four in 10 employees at large corporations surveyed even know the exchanges exist. And about 60 percent of those surveyed are unfamiliar with the basics of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The survey, conducted on behalf of the National Business Group on Health, was intended to gauge employee knowledge about the reform act. Knowledge was spotty, and, overall, results indicated that big company employees think health care reform will increase their cost for company-sponsored insurance and decrease their coverage over time.
On the plus side, the results suggest that more workers are gaining confidence about their ability to navigate the new health care landscape. Increasingly, the emerging private health insurance exchanges are being viewed as a viable alternative for coverage by the nation’s workers.
Workers are worried about the impact reform will have on their coverage, there’s little doubt about that. The survey showed that more than half of respondents expect health insurance premiums to rise during the next few years. About a third of respondents expect the quality of their benefits packages to erode over time. But a vast majority believe (85 percent) believe they’ll be able to afford coverage through their employer in the years ahead, and 90 percent are confident their employer will continue to offer coverage in the future.
While the survey revealed that a large percentage of these workers don’t have a grasp on PPACA, many do understand some of its requirements. For instance, 69 percent know that individuals must have or must purchase insurance. Another 63 percent know that employers with more than 50 workers have to offer insurance to full-time employees.
But employee knowledge about health insurance is increasing. Last year, responding to the same survey question about shopping for their own insurance, 37 percent indicated they didn’t think they could do it. This time, only 28 percent said they weren’t confident they can shop for insurance.
When it came to discussions about private health insurance exchanges, even fewer employees reported knowing nothing about them (66 percent), than about the public exchanges, where 40 percent said they didn’t know about them.
After respondents were given additional information about how private exchanges work, more than half expressed interest in purchasing health insurance through a private exchange.
And 66 percent said they would shop through a public exchange if offered as a less expensive option. “However,” the researchers reported, “more employees would stick with their employer plan if the costs were the same and even if there were more choices offered in a public exchange.”