The Healthy Skeptic: Members’ perceptions of their health plans

Most people appear to be fairly satisfied with their health plans.

Most people appear to be fairly satisfied with their health plans. (Shutterstock)

The Employee Benefits Research Institute does what its name suggests — tracks data and trends in employer-offered health benefits. It recently released a brief regarding employee satisfaction with their health benefits. Employer-sponsored health plans are still the single largest source of coverage for Americans and are almost always listed as the most important work-related benefit by employees. Now I would expect people to be pretty unhappy, due to high costs, including premium sharing, deductibles and copays; and because of access issues in recent years. And polls frequently show that health care costs are one of the issues people are most concerned about.

But according to this research, most people appear to be fairly satisfied with their health plans. 62% were very satisfied and 27% somewhat satisfied with their health plan overall. People have a high level of satisfaction with administrative processes, such as getting enrolled. But only 51% were very satisfied with their choices among health plans, with 32% somewhat satisfied, and 17% not satisfied. About a third of respondents said they had no choice of health plan. Unhappiness with choices is linked to costs — both premiums and cost-sharing amounts, although 49% were satisfied with the affordability of their health plans, which surprises me. A fairly high percentage were satisfied with the open enrollment process. People with high deductible plans ended up spending more time in the open enrollment process.

People said the network of providers, low out-of-pocket costs, low premiums, drug coverage and ease of understanding benefits were the most important factors in a health plan decision. Notwithstanding the cost focus, two-thirds of respondents said they were in a plan with a deductible, which imposes a high out-of-pocket burden on the member.   About 20% are in high deductible plans, usually paired with some kind of savings account. Most people said they were satisfied with the quality of their care, but most people often don’t really know how to understand quality in terms of health outcomes, so instead focus on ease of access and friendliness of a provider.

The survey was conducted among over 2,000 individuals aged 21 to 64, almost all of whom had employer-sponsored health coverage. One improvement in the survey would be to break out size of employer. Health plans at small employers can be more expensive and have lower benefits, and employees are therefore often less satisfied than are workers at large companies. One reason people may say they are generally satisfied with their health plan is that they are grateful to have any coverage when they see how much even the simplest health care costs. But they also generally remain fearful that they may be stuck with unexpected costs that aren’t covered by their plan. (EBRI Survey)

Kevin Roche runs The Healthy Skeptic, a website about the health care system, and has many years of experience working in the health care industry. If you have health care-related questions, you can contact Kevin at xuebpur@urnygul-fxrcgvp.pbz and he may answer the question in a column. 

Read more from Kevin Roche at his website: healthy-skeptic.com

 

Kevin Roche
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Kevin Roche runs The Healthy Skeptic, a website about the health care system, and has many years of experience working in the health care industry.