While More Employees Took Action During 2010 Enrollment Season, Few Made Meaningful Changes in the Benefits They Chose
With U.S. health care and large-scale health reform in the media spotlight, a new analysis by Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting and outsourcing company, shows a record percentage of workers took an active role in selecting their health care benefits during open enrollment for the 2010 plan year. Despite being more engaged in the enrollment process, Hewitt’s analysis showed the majority of employees chose to enroll in similar health plans to what they have in the past.
Hewitt’s analysis of 6 million U.S. workers, for whom Hewitt managed benefits enrollment in the fall of 2009, revealed the highest number of active enrollees since Hewitt began tracking the data in 2003. Nearly half (45 percent) of employees actively chose their benefits for 2010 instead of passively defaulting into the same coverage or no coverage at all. This is up significantly from the 2009 open enrollment period, where just 39 percent of employees actively enrolled.
Despite employees taking a more active role in selecting their benefits, Hewitt’s data shows very few workers enrolled in different health insurance plans. Enrollment in exclusive provider organizations (EPO), preferred provider organizations (PPO) and high-deductible health plans (HDHP) remained consistent with previous years. Enrollment in health maintenance organizations (HMO) dipped slightly from 17 percent in 2009 to 14 percent. Point of service (POS) plans and indemnity plans both saw slight up-ticks in enrollment, from 5 percent and 11 percent in 2009 to 8 percent for 2010 and 13 percent, respectively.
Hewitt’s analysis also shows that enrollment in Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) has risen steadily over the past five years, from 5 percent in 2005 to 14 percent in the current plan year. Enrollment in Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) remained consistent, with one in five (20 percent) of employees enrolling in an FSA for 2010, up slightly from 18 percent in 2009.
“Employee inertia continues to play a large role in enrollment decisions—it’s encouraging to see that people are more engaged in assessing their benefits, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily making different choices,” said Sara Taylor, health and welfare strategy leader at Hewitt Associates. “If employers want workers to make different elections, they might need to adopt a more aggressive approach—whether it’s changing or reducing plan options or offering plans with widely differing price points.”
Use of Decision-Support Tools Rises
Hewitt’s analysis also shows across-the-board increases in the percentage of employees using online decision-support tools to help them compare health care coverage options and make trade-off decisions about how to spend their health care dollars. For example, use of Hewitt’s People Like Me tool—which provides employees with examples of the benefits selections of people in similar circumstances—increased from 8 percent in 2009 to 26 percent for the 2010 plan year. Additionally, 22 percent of participants used a medical expense estimator, up from 11 percent in 2009.