More than one in five American workers report that they often regret their benefit choices, and more than half say they would appreciate more help from their employer in making benefit decisions, the results of a survey on benefit communications conducted by employee communications platform provider Jellyvision have revealed.

The online survey of 2,043 US adults who are employed full-time, are eligible for company-provided benefits, and do not have health insurance through Medicare, Medicaid, or the Veterans Benefits Administration, was conducted from February 24 to March 17, 2017. In addition to finding that 21% of the respondents say they regret some of their past benefit choices, the survey showed that 55% of employees whose companies offer health insurance indicate they would like help from their employer when choosing a health plan, 49% of respondents say they find that making health insurance decisions is always very stressful, and 36% of respondents say the open enrollment process at their company is extremely confusing.

The survey also looked at how workers respond to efforts by their employer’s benefit communications. The results showed that 60% of respondents prefer to receive information about company benefits electronically, and that 20% of respondents say they do not always keep up with benefits correspondence. For example, the findings indicated that some employees do not attend company benefits meetings, never read their company benefit summary plan description, or file or throw away paper benefit materials unread.

In addition, the survey uncovered a number of employee knowledge gaps around health care costs and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). The findings showed that 54% of the workers surveyed are unsure of when they can make changes to their insurance during qualified life events, and that 43% are unclear on where to direct their health insurance questions. The survey also found that 41% of respondents are unable to identify all of the elements that add up to the full cost of their health care, such as employee and employer contributions and the cost of care; and that 50% of respondents admit they are not knowledgeable about HDHPs.

Researchers emphasized that these knowledge gaps can play a critical role in how employees use and value their benefits. The survey showed, for example, that the employees who claim to be knowledgeable about HDHPs are much more likely than those who said they are not knowledgeable to positively describe the option, with 26% of the knowledgeable respondents, but only 9% of those who said they are not knowledgeable, describing HDHPs as affordable.

As well as asking workers about their employers’ benefit communications, the survey asked respondents to react to a possible repeal of the Affordable Health Act (ACA), particularly as it relates to employer-provided health insurance plans. While 61% of respondents said they do not think a repeal would affect them personally, most expressed support for key ACA provisions on annual (72%) and lifetime coverage limits (74%), coverage of preexisting conditions (80%), free preventative care (78%), and coverage of adult children up to age 26 (67% of those who have children under age 26), with the majority saying such provisions are “absolutely essential” or “very important.”

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 60, Issue 8

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