The Towers Perrin research is the first study to analyze ABHPs after several years of meaningful experience and to compare responses from ABHP members and traditional plan members," said Dave Guilmette, Managing Director of Towers Perrin's Health and Welfare practice.
As compared to traditional health benefit plan participants, ABHP members are less comfortable with the level of financial risk their plan exposes them to, less likely to understand how the plan works, less favorable about how easy it is to use the plan, less favorable about the clarity of communication around benefit change and less satisfied with the basic elements of their plans -- including access to affordable, quality health care (see Exhibit 1).
Quite startlingly, ABHP members are significantly less satisfied than those in traditional health benefit plans, when in fact they shouldn't be.
While ABHP participants have acknowledged their willingness to take on more responsibility by enrolling in the plans, they are not taking advantage of the plan features that allow them to manage risk, such as saving to protect themselves from future health-related costs.
According to the Towers Perrin survey, while 29% try to reserve account money for future financial protection, and 16% use the ABHP to save for health care expenses in retirement (see Exhibit 2), the majority of participants have yet to fully-appreciate the value of this opportunity.
One of the keys to changing this perception is for employers to help employees plan for and manage financial risk as part of the transition to decision-making responsibility that comes with enrolling in an ABHP.
Unless employee attitudes improve, it is not realistic to expect that the ABHP approach will attract a majority of employees, nor will the experience enhance their commitment to their employers.
For example, 50% of ABHP members who are comfortable with their financial risk say that their health plan impacts their personal commitment and motivation to do a good job for the organization vs.
However, the survey shows that when employees have an understanding how their ABHP works and feel comfortable with the level of financial risk associated with it, they more actively utilize the plan and its resources, and become smarter health care consumers (see Exhibits 4 and 5).
Conversely, the survey data show that ABHP plan features have little bearing, positively or negatively, on how an employee perceives the plan.
Address the emotional as well as the substantive issues of the ABHP.