Decision 2012: Health Care Benefits Second Most Difficult Decision for Consumers
New Aetna Research Reveals that Consumers Want Clear and Simple Information on their Benefits
HARTFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- As health care reform escalates as a key 2012 electoral issue, Americans will actually be casting their ballots in another election that is more likely to have an immediate and direct impact on their own health care - selecting their 2013 health benefits. Results from Aetna's (NYSE: AET) Empowered Health Index Survey show that Americans rank choosing health care benefits as the second most difficult major life decision behind saving for retirement.
Survey participants reported that choosing health care benefits is more difficult than purchasing a car, making decisions about medical tests or treatments, parenting, and selecting homeowners, renters or auto insurance. Consumers who found health care benefits decisions difficult cited the following reasons: the available information is confusing and complicated (88 percent), there is conflicting information (84 percent) and it is difficult to know which plan is right for them (83 percent).
"The Aetna Empowered Health Index Survey results showed that consumers understand the importance of health benefits. However, they don't feel they have the resources they need to make an educated decision," said Mark T. Bertolini, Aetna's chairman, CEO and president. "We need to make the process of choosing and using health benefits easier for consumers. The survey results will help us continue to develop and enhance tools, programs and products to drive consumer engagement and empower people to live healthier lives."
To help consumers make the right benefits choices right now, Aetna offers a range of resources and educational material on its Plan for Your Health website. The site includes a new "Top 10" list of tips on how to choose your health benefits from Wendy Shanahan-Richards, M.D., co-author of Navigating Your Health Benefits for Dummies, a family physician and national medical director for Aetna. Plan for Your Health also features educational articles, cost calculators and checklists to help consumers make the best Open Enrollment decisions for them and their families.
Additional Survey Results
Aetna's Empowered Health Index Survey looked at a wide range of behaviors, perceptions and priorities within the evolving health care landscape. Some key findings are:
While reducing health care costs continues to be a major political and social issue, many consumers don't monitor their own costs closely. Four in ten consumers (43 percent) rarely or never track how much they spend on out-of-pocket health care costs.
Four in ten Americans (41 percent) have skipped a dose of prescription medication, stopped taking their medication or delayed a needed medical procedure. Consumers in fair or poor health (76 percent) and with chronic conditions (57 percent) are the most likely to skip, stop or delay prescription medication or a recommended medical procedure.
More than three-quarters of consumers believe that all of the key elements of reform are important for their families or them. However, 41 percent of respondents said that they need more information on health care reform to understand its impact.
These survey results are merely a start to the dialogue around health empowerment and consumer choice. To better understand our community's perspectives, Aetna will continue the conversation on Twitter through content, chats and other social engagement at the hashtag #emphealth.
"The results of the Aetna Empowered Health Index Survey help us better understand the challenges that consumers are facing today," said Shanahan-Richards. "We want to arm consumers with as much useful, easy-to-understand information as possible to help them make more informed health benefits choices and take better control of their health."
Aetna has been focused on simplifying communications to members for several years. All member communications - including the redesigned Explanation of Benefits (EOB) - are written at a fifth-grade reading level. To continue improving these pieces, Aetna holds annual focus groups with members that the company uses to make these written materials easier to understand. All Aetna employees are required to take a training program emphasizing the importance of health literacy and plain language. Employees who deal directly with members receive additional training to help ensure that members understand the information they receive.
Aetna's tools include the Member Payment Estimator, which gives members a more complete, personalized picture of the costs involved with their health care. The Member Payment Estimator provides real-time out-of-pocket cost estimates based on a member's personal benefits plan. Aetna's research has shown that members who use the Member Payment Estimator may save as much as $170 on out-of-pocket costs for more than 30 commonly selected health care services they can research with this tool. While this tool is for Aetna members, all consumers can learn more about the Member Payment Estimator and other Aetna resources through www.aetnatools.com
In addition to providing members with helpful technology-based tools, Aetna has been working extensively to create new cooperative relationships with health care providers. Accountable Care Solutions from Aetna is focused on creating a more connected health care system, improving care and, ultimately, lowering costs.
To help consumers better understand how health care reform impacts them personally, Aetna created the Health Reform Connection website. The site provides easy-to-understand information on all different elements of health care reform and Aetna's vision on how to build a better health care system for the future.
About the Survey
The Aetna Empowered Health Index Survey was conducted over the phone, including both landline and cell-phone, by KRC Research during late July among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,500 adults, 18 years and older. The estimated margin of error for the national sample is +/- 2.5% at the 95% confidence level. The Index measures how actively consumers are managing their health by using tools and resources to assess the quality of providers and make cost comparisons.
Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 36.7 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, Medicaid health care management services and health information technology services. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see www.aetna.com.
Ethan Slavin, 860-273-6095
KEYWORDS: United States North America Connecticut
The article Decision 2012: Health Care Benefits Second Most Difficult Decision for Consumers originally appeared on Fool.com.
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