The COVID-19 pandemic caused many people to reassess their health and well-being in 2020, which led to increased interest in their employer health care plans.
A survey by Alegeus, a consumer directed health care solutions company, found that 36% of the 1,000 United States employees it surveyed looked more closely at their health plan options for 2021 when going through open enrollment.
Despite that increased interest, the “2021 Post-Open Enrollment Survey” found that 63% of employees still enrolled in the same plan as the year prior. Familiarity with the plan and coverage were cited as primary reasons for sticking with current plans. Cost and value were cited as top decision criteria in 45% by consumers.
“Consumer health and financial fluency challenges are well documented, and we know that consumers often feel ill-prepared to navigate open enrollment decisions,” said Alegeus CEO, Leif O’Leary. “Consumers often lack the knowledge and confidence to make savvy decisions that will deliver the best value for their family’s unique situation. These insights confirm that, as an industry, we still have work to do to help consumers feel confident and make savvier enrollment decisions.”
The survey findings revealed that this latest open enrollment period was a missed opportunity by many employers to better educate and communicate their employee base on the benefits options available to them.
Only 43% of consumers rated their open enrollment experience as “positive.” Many pointed to limited support from employers in helping them navigate these decisions:
- 48% of employees said that their employer did not provide enough educational resources, such as videos, flyers and decision support tools, to prepare them for enrollment decisions
- Only 40% of employees said they felt prepared to make decisions regarding their health care plan
Employees continue to grapple with understanding and predicting health care costs, as 21% struggled most with forecasting out-of-pocket costs or determining optimal contribution amounts, while 20% felt that they simply could not discern which option would provide the best care for them and their family. Another 10% of survey responders acknowledged that they fundamentally didn’t understand the options that were available.
Consumer-directed health care accounts continued to feature prominently among enrolled benefits — offering strong value to help consumers save on out-of-pocket health care expenses:
- 43% of consumers surveyed decided to enroll in an account such as flexible saving accounts (FSA), health savings accounts (HSA), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRA).
- 13% of the consumers opted into a new or different type of account for the first time.
Despite their struggles, 76% of consumers ultimately said that they feel at least somewhat confident that they had chosen the right health plan for them.