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Workers unprepared for big health insurance changes ahead
By Insure.com staff

A troubling number of workers indicated they're not prepared to take greater control over their health insurance and handle rising costs, according to the "2013 Aflac WorkForces Report."

The study was based on surveys conducted by Research Now of almost 2,000 employee benefits professionals and more than 5,200 workers. It found that many employees are unaware of basic insurance changes ahead and unfamiliar with basic health insurance terms. Among the findings from workers:

  • 54 percent would rather not have greater control over their insurance options because they don't have time or knowledge to manage the decisions.
  • 72 percent are unfamiliar with the phrase, "consumer-driven health care."
  • 62 percent think their share of medical costs will increase, but only 23 percent are saving money for the extra expenses.
  • 75 percent think their employers will educate them about changes to their health insurance coverage as a result of health care reform, but only 13 percent of employers said educating employees about reform was important to their organization.
  • 32 percent don't know much or anything about health savings accounts, and 49 percent don't know much or anything about health reimbursement accounts. A quarter of employees lack knowledge about flexible spending accounts.
  • 76 percent don't know much or anything about federal and state health care exchanges.
"If consumers aren't educated about the full scope of their options, they risk making costly mistakes without a financial back-up plan," Audrey Boone Tillman, Aflac's executive vice president of corporate services, said in a press statement.

According to the report, 53 percent of employers have implemented a high-deductible health plan over the last three years, a trend that shows no signs of stopping. The U.S. government predicts that household out-of-pocket health care expenses will reach an average of $3,301 per year by 2014. The Alfac study found that 46 percent of workers have less than $1,000 in savings to use for out-of-pocket expenses in case of a serious illness or accident, and 25 percent of employees have less than $500.

"If employers aren't offering guidance to workers on how to make crucial benefits decisions, the responsibility lies in the hands of consumers to educate themselves," Tillman said. She suggested employees get information about policies from human resource professionals, create a health care budget and choose a health plan that fits their needs.

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