SHRM Poll: Many Organizations Continue to be Cautious with Offering Cost-Saving Health Benefit Options

Jul 7, 2011
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Respondents noted that knowledge gap might be impacting adoption of consumer-directed plans

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Although organizations are concerned about costs when deciding which health benefits to offer employees, less than half (42 percent) offer cost-saving Consumer-Directed Health Plans (CDHPs), according to a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management. The poll — sponsored by Aetna — showed that more than half (58 percent) of respondents are not comfortable with their knowledge of CDHPs.

“Many organizations are turning to CDHPs to give employees more flexibility and control over health care spending,” said Mark Schmit, SHRM’s director of research. “However, this type of health plan can be more complicated than a traditional plan, which is why they are only slowly growing in usage. Still, the greater investment in implementation and communication can be well worth it for both employees and organizations.”

CDHPs, which typically include a high-deductible health plan and either a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), were established in the early 2000s as a potential solution to rising health care costs. Both HRAs and HSAs were established as an alternative for paying for health care expenses, and HSAs can also help with planning for retirement. CDHPs include access to informational tools that help consumers make informed decisions and encourage members to become more involved in their own health care, exercising greater control over how and where their health care dollars are spent.

“Our research has shown that employees with these plans became more engaged and informed health care consumers, using preventive care services more frequently and visiting the emergency room for non-urgent care less than members in other plans,” said Christine Riedl, head of Enterprise Medical Products for Aetna. “We also see lower health care costs for employers – especially when the employers have invested time in educational programs with employees. We realize that CDHPs can initially seem daunting, so we’re working to continually make them simpler and more intuitive to use.”

To help provide this education, SHRM will be hosting an informational webcast at 2 p.m. ET on Aug. 2. The webcast will be led by Riedl and will offer HR managers expert advice on understanding and selecting CDHPs, as well as educating management and employees about these options. The webcast will be accessible to SHRM members at www.shrm.org/webcast.

Among other highlights of the poll:

  • Many (77 percent) HR professionals find it challenging to engage employees in getting the best value from their plan and to encourage them to focus on their health and wellness. Interestingly, most of the HR professionals (77 percent) whose companies offer a CDHP say it has helped engage employees in their health and wellness.
  • One reason companies may not be offering CDHPs is the desire to maintain status quo regarding employees’ health benefit options. Almost half (49 percent) of HR professionals say their organization does not offer a CDHP because most employees are satisfied with their current health care benefits plan.
  • A majority (77 percent) report that their organizations have cut health care costs by shifting them to employees in the form of higher monthly premiums or out-of-pocket costs. And some (35 percent) have reduced the scope or amount of overall benefits offerings.
  • Almost all HR professionals (94 percent) said employees consider health benefits an important part of their overall compensation and benefits package.

For more information on the poll findings, visit: http://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Articles/Pages/StateofConsumerDirectedHealthPlans.aspx

Follow SHRM research on Twitter @SHRM_Research and SHRM Media Relations @SHRMPress.

Media: For more information about the poll, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6260 and kate.kennedy@shrm.org or Julie Malveaux at julie.malveaux@shrm.org and 703-535-6273.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at www.shrm.org. Follow us on Twitter.

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 33.8 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see www.aetna.com.

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