Survey: Healthcare Options Confuse Employees, Leading to Deferred Care

A new survey from SCIO Health Analytics found that one in five Americans defers seeking healthcare services due to cost. But the survey suggests that part of the problem might be confusion over what benefits their health plans offer.

Is the human resources department doing a good enough job of explaining your organization’s healthcare offerings?

Probably not, according to results of a new online survey from SCIO Health Analytics [PDF]. Conducted by the Harris Poll, the survey found that 38 percent of respondents didn’t have a good idea of the services provided by their healthcare plan. Worse, about 20 percent of respondents have avoided going to the doctor due to concerns about cost. If you extrapolate the study findings to the U.S. population at large, that would mean that 44 million Americans—including 16.4 million with chronic conditions—avoid going to the doctor.

Are you telling them what they need to know? Are you really driving them to be healthy?

The problem, SCIO says, comes down to a lack of clarity about the offerings available to plan participants.

“These findings are particularly relevant at this time as millions of Americans are once again deciding their annual healthcare benefit options through [Affordable Care Act] open enrollment,” SCIO Health Analytics CEO Siva Namasivayam said in a news release. “While Americans are spending more time researching health plans, the survey reveals a significant knowledge gap in the specifics of their healthcare options that may eventually lead to unnecessary risks and costs.”

In comments to CNBC, Namasivayam added that the jargon-laden language commonly used in healthcare enrollment processes is part of the problem.

“I think that people are signing up, but people are signing up without having [a] clue about what they’re getting into,” he said. “The whole communication and literacy issue is a major hurdle. … Are you telling them what they need to know? Are you really driving them to be healthy?”

An improving picture

While such news is troublesome, there are signs that the healthcare picture is starting to improve overall.

Last week, a Commonwealth Fund survey reported declines for the first time on two cost-related issues: It found that the number of Americans who had problems paying medical bills dropped from 75 million to 64 million, while the number of those who did not get needed care due to cost fell from 80 million to 66 million.

“For the first time since it was launched in 2001, the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey has found significant declines in the number and share of U.S. adults who lack health insurance,” the report states. “The survey also finds evidence to suggest that the coverage gains are allowing working-age adults to get the healthcare they need while reducing their level of financial burden because of medical bills and debt.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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