For benefit managers, the truth is harsh: The employees in your company are spending more time shopping for holiday gifts compared to reviewing their benefits.

According to a new Morning Consult survey conducted on behalf of private exchange operator Liazon, 52% of employees expect to spend two or more hours shopping for gifts this holiday season. Likewise, 86% said that they spend less than two hours reviewing their company’s employee benefits.

Bloomberg/file photo

It’s not that they don’t care, according to the survey of 872 adults who get their health insurance from their employer. Most survey respondents said that they care “a lot” about their coverage and financial stability — 89% say financial stability is very important to them — but it pales to the siren call of finding a new Apple iPhone 7 or Playstation 4.

“This is noteworthy given that 57% of employees are spending $500 or less on holiday gifts, while in comparison, the average employee spends thousands of dollars on their annual health insurance premiums ($18,142 for family coverage and $6,435 for employee-only coverage). This disconnect in terms of time vs. money spent suggests that employees are likely not realizing the financial impact of their benefits decisions,” according a Liazon statement.

One reason for the apparent disconnect might be the complex nature of benefit plans. The survey found that 83% of employees care “a lot” about what their health insurance plan covers, but only 52% say they really understand it. Women respondents expressed greater concern about their health insurance coverage than men, with 89% of women saying they care “a lot” about their coverage versus only 77% of men.

As an employee ages, their attention to health benefit coverage grows. Only 68% of millennials said that they care about what their health insurance covers compared to 83% of surveyed workers aged 30-45. Meanwhile, 86% of workers aged 46-54 care about the specifics of their health coverage, compared to 87% of 55-64 year olds and 91% of employees 65 and over.

Unsurprisingly, millennials spend the least amount of time reviewing their benefits, with 61% spending an hour or less.

“Benefits are among the biggest purchases employees make in a year. Yet despite being highly concerned with their health and financial security, employees are spending more time finding Uncle Bob the drone quadcopter he requested than reviewing their benefits options,” says Alan Cohen, co-founder of Liazon.

“Health insurance is about financial protection more than anything else, yet people’s actions show that they’re not always thinking this way,” Cohen adds. “The good news is there’s an opportunity to better educate employees about their health and other benefits by increasing transparency around costs and engaging them in the selection process.”

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