As employers seek to reduce their health care costs by shifting more of the burden of paying for insurance to their workers, many are simultaneously searching for ways to help employees reduce their health care own spending.
Liazon, an online benefits exchange, recently conducted a survey it says displays the way online exchanges help make employees more sophisticated health care consumers.
According to their poll of hundreds of thousands of customers, 85 percent say they are more aware of the cost of health care than before they began using the exchange. Eighty-three percent say they now have a better understanding of exactly what services their insurance covers and 82 percent say they are more confident about their health care decisions.
Liazon also reports only 5 percent of employees say they would prefer their employer not use an online benefits exchange in the future.
In contrast to the Affordable Care Act marketplace, most of whose users chose the cheapest health plans available, only 28 percent of those who use the Liazon exchange claim to have picked their plan based on price. The majority (58 percent) say they picked their plans because they provide the “right level of coverage.”
As an apparent result, 72 percent of employees believe they get better value for their benefits than before the marketplace was available to them and 83 percent even value their employer’s contribution to their benefits more.
While encouraging health care consumerism through high-deductible health care plans and other types of consumer-driven plans has been touted in recent years as one of the long-term solutions to curbing the ever-rising cost of health care, some have cautioned that employers may have gone too far in shifting the financial and decision-making burden to workers, particularly low-wage workers.
Kim Buckey, vice president of client services for DirectPath, a health care compliance firm, told BenefitsPRO recently that very high deductibles may have negative consequences for both employees and their employers. A worker who forgoes medical care due to the high cost might end up costing the company more if the untreated medical need turns into an even bigger problem.
At the very least, Buckey explained, plans that demand high cost-sharing from employees should be accompanied by education on how the benefits work. Online marketplaces that explain each benefit option clearly are one such solution.