NEW YORK – Credit unions looking to lower health care costs with Consumer Driven Health Plans may want to focus on program education efforts first. According to a new Towers Perrin survey, a widening gap between employer and employee views on consumer driven health care strategies may undermine the program’s success. The 2004 Towers Perrin Health Care Consumerism Survey: Aligning Employer and Employee Interests finds that while most U.S. employers are moving forward with plans that rely on employees to be better health care consumers it has fueled growing employee resistance and compromised the perceived value of health benefits. “The clear trend among employers is to try to enlist employees as allies in the effort to control health care cost growth by educating them about the problem and encouraging them to be more thoughtful consumers of health care through changes in plan design and related initiatives,” said Towers Perrin HR Services Managing Director of Health and Welfare Jim Foreman. “Our survey suggests that many employees just aren’t buying it, in part because they’ve been largely shielded from the true cost of health care during the managed care era and view rising costs as the company’s problem. What comes through loud and clear in our survey is that, for employees, health care is all about me.” The survey finds that only 28% of employees surveyed feel it would be appropriate for their employers to ask them to absorb additional cost increases and only 15% feel that further benefit reductions are appropriate. In addition, some 82% of employees surveyed believe they are already good consumers. The findings suggest that when introducing such programs employers must communicate reasons other that costs and the impact on the company. “Employees understand that health care costs are a problem, and they’re open to behavior changes that could reduce costs both for them and for their employers, but they’re not motivated to change just to save the company money,” said Foreman. “Employers need to recognize that health care is primarily an emotional issue for employees, not a cost issue. For consumerism to be fully effective, employees need to believe it’s in their self-interest.” The survey finds that most employees are open to a range of health management initiatives that directly benefit them from health club memberships, to employer-provided resources including health-related Web sites, information booklets/brochures or toll free access to an independent nurse or medical practitioner. Here are a few more survey findings: * 76% of employees would join a health plan that offered financial incentives for healthy behavior * 64% of employees are willing to complete a confidential health risk assessment to help them identify health risks * 79% employees believe their employers should encourage employees to adopt healthy lifestyles * 28% of employers say they communicate with employees about health care issues other than costs. * 31% of employers feel that their companies have sent clear messages about what employees need to do to be effective health care consumers. * 69% of employer respondents said their companies have begun educating employees about the business impact of rising health care costs
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