Survey: Employers Lack Information When Choosing Health Plans

Despite their outsize role in choosing healthcare options for millions of Americans, a new survey shows most employers don't understand how to objectively assess insurance plans.

Despite their outsize role in choosing healthcare options for millions of Americans, a new survey shows most employers don’t understand how to objectively assess insurance plans.

The survey, conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found 9 in 10 employers were unfamiliar with resources such as the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, a federal survey asking health consumers to rate their healthcare experiences, or the Health

Effectiveness Data and Information Set Scores, a quality measure used by most insurers to assess a health plan’s performance.

“There appears to be a serious information deficit among employers when it comes time for them to assess the quality of health insurance plans,” said Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center, in a press release.

That’s not to say employers aren’t interested in quality rankings. Six in 10 said they believe such ratings are important. The problem, according to the survey, is that they don’t know where to look to find such assessments.

Instead, most employers look to costs. The survey found employers’ top concern when choosing a plan was a plan’s effect on their own bottom line, though employers also said they pay attention to the end-user cost as well.

The survey also found about 20% of employers are looking at plans on the government health exchanges as they consider updating or changing their own insurance offerings.

Though the Affordable Care Act was enacted 4 years ago, there appears to be continued uncertainty about what effect the law will have on employers.

Most employers surveyed told the center they expect the ACA to impact the benefits they offer, although the nature of the expected impact was unclear. Some respondents said the ACA would make it easier for them to scale back employee benefits. Others said it would make scaling back insurance more difficult.

Only 4% of employers with 100 or more workers said they planned to give employees fewer hours in order to reduce their number of full-time employees and thus their insurance obligations under the ACA.

The poll was conducted between Aug. 19 and Oct. 8 and consisted of telephone and Internet surveys of 1,061 employers with at least 3 employees. The survey was paid for by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation