U.S. employees' greatest concerns about health care are rising costs, canceled coverage and new taxes on medical benefits. Their employers are most concerned about the lack of federal guidance on what requirements must be communicated to employees, according to a December 2010 survey by HighRoads, a benefits administration service provider.
“There appears to be a healthy skepticism on the employer’s part about the content and timing of guidance from the federal government on how to administer and communicate future plan changes,” said Kim Buckey, practice lead at HighRoads. “While most employers increased their communications efforts during the fall 2010 open enrollment period to communicate changes required by health care reform, there are still doubts about how effective those communications were.”
Buckey advised, “There is clearly an opportunity to do some follow-up communications—based on the actual employee elections during open enrollment—or employee sensing (surveys or focus groups) midyear to determine whether employees truly understood the impact of the year’s plan changes.”
The biggest concerns HR professionals and benefits managers are hearing from employees about how health care reform affects them, HighRoads found, include:
• Increased cost of coverage (noted by 50 percent of respondents).
• Cancellation of benefits (13 percent).
• Government taxation of medical benefits (13 percent).
• Ability to add adult dependents (12 percent).
• No real concerns (12 percent).
While 88 percent of employers reported that they had increased their employee communications to address health care reform, many still worried that the communications might not have been enough. The biggest communications concerns employers had around health care reform for the year ahead include:
• Lack of federal guidance on what the requirements are or how any changes in guidance during the year might change what has been communicated to employees (25 percent).
• The disconnect on cost and existing plans, because the law is predicated on being cost neutral to taxpayers and allowing employees to not lose the coverage they have (13 percent).
• Making sure that employees are told everything that is changing under their plans (13 percent).
• Employee understanding of changes and how the changes affect them (12 percent).
Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Employers Shift Benefits as Health Costs Jump 6.9% in 2010, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, November 2010
A Pollster's Insights for Effective Health Care Communications, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, October 2010
Increased Health Care Cost-Shifting Expected in 2011, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, June 2010
SHRM Online Benefits DisciplineSHRM Online Health Care Reform Resource Page