Understanding High-Deductible Health Insurance Plans - Mayo Center of Innovation - Healthcare Design

Helping Employees Better Understand High-Deductible Health Plans

Post Written By Dave Ratcliffe, Principal, Buck Consultants at Xerox

With open enrollment just completed, many people were forced to elect a high-deductible health insurance plan. It can be confusing for people to figure out what this type of plan will mean for them and how to navigate a complex medical system to meet their specific needs.

The number of employers offering high-deductible health plans has increased nearly 300 percent since 2009 according to the PwC Health Research Institute 2015 consumer survey. Many employers have moved to high-deductible plans to lower costs by shifting expenses to the employee. Cost management now plays a larger role as employees have to make decisions as consumers. This is significant because people now have more skin in the game than ever before.

Employers need to implement an excellent year-round communications and engagement campaign, not just around open enrollment. This can help alleviate the confusion and fear of using a high-deductible plan because the cost is perceived as high.

As a result of being more invested in the cost of their healthcare, people with high-deductible plans often forgo or put off care. The perception is that even if preventive care is covered 100 percent, people still think they will have high expenses. The PwC Health Research Institute 2015 consumer survey also found:

  • 28 percent of employees skipped seeing a doctor;
  • 28 percent asked for a generic prescription instead of a brand name;
  • 20 percent skipped seeing a specialist such as an OB/GYN, dermatologist, orthopedic surgeon;
  • 18 percent skipped follow-up care such as going to physical therapy sessions recommended by a doctor;
  • And 16 percent delayed or skipped a procedure or treatment.

Employers can play a major role in ensuring employees seek preventative care. It’s critical for employers to set up plans so employees understand preventative care is covered and they’re incentivized to take advantage of it. If employees don’t clearly understand their benefits and forgo the care they need, it could lead to higher costs down the road.

Below are a few ways organizations can engage their workers to understand and better utilize their benefits:

  • Create incentives that encourage healthy behavior all year, not just at open enrollment
  • Use the latest in mobile and portal technology to personalize messaging and capture attention
  • Host monthly lunch and learns centered on a timely health topic that ties back to their benefits.
  • Focus on more holistic benefits communication strategies to include health, wealth and career--maintaining or improving health is a necessity for an individual to meet career and wealth goals