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Encouraging employee engagement with health benefits

In a competitive economy, a robust package of employee health benefits is one of the key elements that employers need to attract and to retain a skilled, experienced workforce. In fact, according to statistics gathered by Collective Health and Harris Poll, 78% of adults in the U.S. say healthcare benefits strongly factor into their decision on where to accept a job. However, once employees have these benefits, most do not take full advantage of the complete range of services and support available. Only 25% of employees questioned in one survey said they have used all the preventive care benefits offered by their employer.

Another survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association, found that only 33% of employees report participating in employer-provided health promotion programs. The failure to engage with and use the benefits available can have an especially significant impact when employees or their family members face serious or complex medical issues, such as a cancer diagnosis or recommendation for surgery. When employees don’t use the full spectrum of benefits available to them, such as second opinions and case management, the risk of poorer health outcomes and higher employer and employee healthcare costs increases, with more than $210 billion a year spent on inappropriate and unnecessary treatment according to an Institute of Medicine report. Several factors contribute to employees’ failure to use all the health benefits available to them:

Problems with the benefits selection process: Although the choice of benefits can have wide ranging effects on both physical and financial health, 77% of employees spend 60 minutes or less choosing benefits, while 46% spend 30 minutes or less on this important decision, according to an Aflac poll. Another survey noted the high stress levels associated with making benefit decisions, finding that 49% of employees say making benefits decisions is always stressful.

Not understanding the options: A survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans found that approximately 80% of organizations reported that employees do not have a high level of understanding of their benefits. This lack of understanding comes at a financial cost. According to 42% of employees in the Aflac survey, the estimated cost of errors employees make understanding and choosing benefits can cost them up to $750 per year.

Complexity of benefits: When faced with multiple benefit providers and contact points, employees often do not know where to find the information they need to understand the benefits available to them and how to access them. As a result, employees fail to access the information, resources and support that can help them make informed medical decisions. This can have a negative impact on health outcomes and healthcare costs.

—benefitnews.com