American workers are feeling increasingly confident about their benefit choices, but they may not fully understand the choices they are making, and continue to struggle to understand the benefits information their employer provides, according to the results of two studies that analyzed the trends, attitudes, and use of employee benefits among the U.S. workforce released by voluntary insurance benefits provider Aflac.

A national online survey of 5,000 U.S. workers, conducted January 26-February 17, 2017, found that of the respondents who receive benefits from their employer, 67% of respondents are confident they understood all of the benefits they signed up for; and 55% agreed that completing their annual health benefits enrollment made them feel secure, like being tucked in at night, or accomplished, like they just finished a marathon.

However, the survey results also revealed that large shares of employees may be making benefit decisions without complete knowledge of the plan. When asked about their understanding of specific features of their health care plan, like deductibles, co-pays, and providers in their network, only 24% of respondents answered that they understood everything.

The findings further indicated that 67% of the surveyed employees say they find reading about their benefits is complicated, long, and stressful. When asked what changes employers could make to improve their benefit enrollment experience, the top responses were “simpler language” and “more options.”

The results also suggested that satisfaction with benefits is linked to job satisfaction: 78% of respondents who said they are extremely or very satisfied with their benefits also indicated they are extremely or very satisfied with their job, compared to 45% of those who reported they are somewhat satisfied with their benefits and 30% of those who said they are not very or not at all satisfied with their benefits.

A separate survey was conducted August 24-28, 2017, among 1,000 20- to 26-year-olds, employed either full or part time. The aim of the survey was to find out how Millennials and members of Generation Z who are now entering the workforce feel about their first benefits enrollment experience.

Of the respondents currently on their parents’ health care plan (35%), more than half (54%) said they are leaving their parents’ plan in the next year to purchase their own benefits for the first time. More than two-thirds (69%) of those on their parents’ plan admitted they do not know how much their health insurance coverage costs, even though 41% indicated they make financial contributions to their parents’ plan.

The results also showed that 22% of the young adults surveyed associate health care benefits with independence, but only 19% said they feel confident, and just 31% said they feel prepared to select their own health care plan. When asked to identify their most pressing concerns about choosing their own plan, the top responses were cost (44%) and understanding how health insurance works (36%).

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 60, Issue 11

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