Consumer-Directed Push Not Going Far

Those who have argued that consumer-directed health care will stumble because of employees’ disinclination and downright inability to manage their benefits will find rueful affirmation in some recent survey data.

First, there’s the 2006 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust.

Based on a poll of 3,159 companies, it finds that only about 4 percent of covered workers are enrolled in such plans, “a rate statistically no different from last year.”

Then, there’s the survey of more than 18,000 employees announced with: “Hewitt Study Finds Employees Struggling To Effectively Manage Their Health Care.”

It states that only 30 percent of employees in high-deductible health plans with health savings accounts “understood and were satisfied with their selection, and more than half said they wouldn’t re-enroll next year.”

The press release was subtle: “As Health Care Becomes More Complex, Employees Look to Companies for Guidance.”

Just ask Nick Bond about that. Bond runs a small transmission repair business in Fort Wayne, Ind. When he introduced a CDHP, his 34 employees were so confused that they inundated him with questions, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“At one point, he and his office manager had to hole themselves up in their offices for about two weeks developing a spreadsheet with price information on 32 drugs.”

Some managers “have to turn themselves into instant experts both on health care and on the law.” All the while asking if it’s worth it, we suspect.

MANAGED CARE October 2006. ©MediMedia USA

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