What do health care consumers — and employees inparticular — want from their coverage? What do they understandabout it, and what don’t they? What frustrates them the most whenthey attempt to select health insurance?

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These were key questions asked by the Healthcare Trends Institute in a survey of U.S. adultswith employer-sponsored health insurance. The institute, anonprofit that offers a platform designed to bring clarity to theever-changing benefits world, learned among other things that lessthan half of those surveyed are setting money aside to meet theirfuture health care needs.

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That may be the most startling finding: 42 percent of thosequeried are not creating a medical care savings nest egg. But otherdata should be of concern to corporate benefits managers aswell.

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For instance, when asked questions about the transparency andclarity of information related to their health insurance, far lessthan half felt they were getting clear answers. Only 36 percentsaid their health care benefit cost was presented with clarity andtransparency by their employer, and only slightly more (39 percent)felt they could easily access financial information about theirhealth insurance.

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The survey found other significant disconnects in benefitsknowledge. On the one hand, nearly 9 in 10 respondents said theywere familiar with the workings of consumer-driven health plans. Yet despite clearadvantages that many could derive from such coverage, only 24percent said they are enrolled in such a plan.

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Those surveyed generally reported feeling confused about thedetails of their benefits options and most said their employerswere failing to properly present the information to them.

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For instance, when asked to describe how well prepared they feltthey were to manage the out-of-pocket payments they were responsiblefor, they said they thought they could handle about 55 percent ofwhat they believed they would be required to pay.

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Given that out-of-pocket responsibilities are rapidly shiftingfrom employer to employee, that is not a healthy trend.

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Although most employees today do not seem to have a grip onmanaging their dollars to meet medical needs, the survey found thatthey are generally pretty comfortable and confident with theconcept of saving for retirement. Some 81 percent said they aresaving for retirement, and 84 percent are making contributions to aretirement fund.

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But given the looming medical costs they could facepost-retirement, those dollars may wind up going to medicalprofessionals rather than cruises in the Mediterranean.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.