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U.S. workers said that to make informed decisions about selecting health care coverage options they need a description of the available benefits, a comparison of how the cost of health insurance may change, and a comparison of coverage among available plans, according to the First Annual Transamerica Center for Health Studies Survey.
The July 2013 survey by the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS) polled 1,704 full-time, part-time and self-employed workers, plus 758 employers. The findings highlight how worker and employer perceptions are often misaligned. For instance, when organizations were asked what information they give to workers, only 12 percent reported providing all three pieces of information that surveyed employees said are key.About half of employers provide a description of benefits, 30 percent provide a comparison of coverage options, and 24 percent provide a comparison of how the cost of health insurance may change depending on the option selected.
What’s perplexing about these results is that “a description of the available benefits” and related information is provided in the required summary plan description (SPD) and summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) disclosures.
But these documents “are very high level, and it is possible some employers may not have determined them to be ‘descriptive’ enough to select that answer,” TCHS Executive Director Hector De La Torre told SHRM Online.
Moreover, “Given the unpreparedness by many employers forthe SBC requirement last year, it is likely many are still working with the DOL to provide the necessary information,” De La Torre suggested. In addition, the survey sample included organizations that don’t provide health insurance benefits at all.
Among other findings that point to ongoing communication challenges:
“With the health care coverage landscape on the verge of a wholesale shift, now is the time for workers and employers to begin to be fully aligned on what workers need to make informed decisions relating to their health care coverage,” De La Torre said.
Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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