National Dialogue On Health Care Spurring More Americans To Review Their Benefits More Closely This Fall, According To Survey

  • Half of respondents say in the past they usually spent only an hour or less reviewing their health benefit options
  • HealthCareLane.com is a virtual town consumers can visit to more easily understand their health benefits and learn about a variety of health-related topics
MINNETONKA, Minn. — 

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the national dialogue on health care has encouraged them to review their health benefits more closely during this year’s open-enrollment period, according to a new survey by UnitedHealthcare. Survey respondents said that in the past they only spent an hour or less reviewing their benefit options, which affect some of their most important health care needs.

Fall is the most common time of the year when employers ask their employees to review and select their benefit options for the upcoming year.

“Open enrollment season is a great learning opportunity, but that learning environment must be a two-way street,” said Austin Pittman, UnitedHealthcare’s chief growth officer who also leads the company’s open enrollment activities. “Just as we encourage people to closely examine their health benefits and ask questions, it’s also important that employers and insurers communicate clearly about the different options that are available. Consumers who better understand their health care options make better health decisions, which can lead to better personal health and well-being.”

UnitedHealthcare’s national survey – conducted via telephone with nearly 1,000 adults age 18 or older and who receive their health coverage through their or a family member’s employer – found that:

  • Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents say that, as a result of the national dialogue on health care, they will review their health benefits more closely.

 

  • Half of the respondents report that in the past, they spent only an hour or less reviewing their enrollment materials and learning about their health benefits during open enrollment. By comparison, a May 2010 survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Zillow Mortgage Markplace found that consumers spend on average 10 hours researching a new car and five hours researching a mortgage.

 

  • More than one-third (40 percent) of respondents – and 48 percent of 18-34 year olds – report they only “somewhat” understand their health benefits but want to learn more, or do not understand them at all.

 

  • Seventy-seven percent say their employer can improve the open-enrollment process by using simpler language to describe benefits. Sixty-nine percent say they would like their employers to provide new types of educational materials, such as interactive or multimedia.

 

  • Respondents’ top-two preferred methods for learning about their health benefits are through brochures or print materials that describe their benefits (31 percent) and an easy-to-understand website that teaches them about their benefits (29 percent). Among 18-34 year olds, a website is the most preferred method (44 percent).

To help simplify health benefit information, UnitedHealthcare has enhanced its HealthCareLane.com website, a virtual town whose “residents” explain fundamental health insurance topics in friendly, engaging conversations. The site is an interactive resource available to all consumers who want to learn more about health insurance.

New additions to the town include a drive-in movie theater where visitors can watch videos about a number of general health-related issues, and a community park where visitors can learn more about UnitedHealthcare’s health and wellness services, including the Healthy Pregnancy Program and the Quicken Health Expense Tracker.

Additional stops visitors can make while strolling through town include the banker, who explains Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), or the Wi-Fi Café to learn about new technologies that make understanding and managing health information easier. Employers can tailor the site to reflect their specific employee health benefit plans. To date, more than 150 large employers have worked with UnitedHealthcare and designed their own versions of HealthCareLane.com.

Also new this year, a “brick-and-mortar” Health Care Lane exhibit is touring the country during open-enrollment season, holding educational events at trade shows, industry conferences and other venues with consumers, employers and health benefit brokers.

“Better health truly does start with better information,” said Pittman. “Health Care Lane helps people learn more about their benefits and select what is best for them and their family in a fun and simple way.”

Tips for Choosing Your Health Benefits
UnitedHealthcare offers the following tips for consumers to better understand their health benefit options during open-enrollment season:

  • Know and understand what’s in your benefit package. Getting familiar with your current plan, the other plans your employer is offering, and any new options will help you make the best decision. Most people focus all their attention on the premium and copays, and forget to ask about things that they may not expect to be covered, such as wellness programs, health coaches and more. Also, take time to understand the total cost of each benefit plan option if you’re offered more than one choice – it’s not just about the monthly premium deducted from your paycheck.


  • Check to see if your doctor(s) is in-network. Staying within your benefit plan’s care provider network is a great way to save on out-of-pocket costs. If you or your dependents have a doctor you see regularly, make sure he or she is part of the network for the health plan you choose during open enrollment. Even if you don't plan to make any changes to your benefits this year, it’s always good to ensure that your doctor is still in the network.

 

  • Anticipate next year’s health expenses. If you are expecting any significant, predictable health events in the next year, such as a having a baby or surgery, you should compare costs for that treatment. Then you can estimate how much you would have to pay out of pocket and opt for a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account to pay for those expenses with before-tax dollars.


  • Take a quick Health Insurance 101. There are a number of resources available to help you better understand health insurance. Most people understand terms like co-pay and deductible, but it’s important to also know what a formulary is, how a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) differs from a Health Savings Account, and how some wellness programs can put money back in your pocket.

 

  • Don’t forget about prescriptions. Pharmacy programs may be the most-used part of your health care benefits. Which drugs are covered and how much you pay for generic vs. brand-name drugs may differ among health plans. Be sure to check your health plan’s prescription drug reference guide to identify lower-cost pharmacy options including generic drug and over-the-counter alternatives, discounts, mail service, and other money-saving opportunities.

Survey Methodology
The national telephone poll was conducted August 20-23, 2010, by Infogroup | ORC using its CARAVAN omnibus services on behalf of UnitedHealthcare. The national sample included 2,012 adults (1,007 men and 1,005 women), 18 years of age and older, and living in private households in the continental United States. The qualifying sample included 953 adults (496 men and 457 women) who had employer-sponsored health care through their own employer or a family member’s employer. Margin of error was +/- 2 percentage points for the total national sample of 2,012 and +/- 3 percentage points for the qualified national sample of 953 at a 95-percent confidence level.

About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare provides a full spectrum of consumer-oriented health benefit plans and services to individuals, public sector employers and businesses of all sizes, including more than half of the Fortune 100 companies. The company organizes access to quality, affordable health care services on behalf of approximately 25 million individual consumers, contracting directly with more than 600,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals to offer them broad, convenient access to services nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. 

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National Dialogue On Health Care Spurring More Americans To Review Their Benefits More Closely This Fall, According To Survey