Employer satisfaction with health plan costs is going up, according to the J.D. Power 2013 Employer Health Plan Study, yet health plans may risk losing group business unless they improve satisfaction in other areas.

The study, now in its fourth year, measures six factors that affect employer satisfaction with health plans: employee plan service experience; account servicing; program offerings; benefit design; problem resolution; and cost.

Satisfaction with cost is improving as more consumer-driven health plans are offered to employees, which 82% of employers indicate are controlling costs, the survey reveals.

Employer satisfaction with costs "went up significantly in all the attributes we measure. Significantly more employers are offering CDHP products to their employees and so that has been a cost-shifting measure that they are satisfied with," says Scott Hawkins, director, health care, J.D. Power. "But one of the things we see on the member side is that when employees are put on those products and they don't really understand them, their satisfaction is lower. So I think it's really important that employers work with the health plans to help their members understand how to manage those costs once they're on those products, or they're going to have dissatisfied employees."

Fifteen percent of employers say they "definitely will not" or "probably will not" continue sponsoring coverage in five years.

Perhaps not surprisingly, cost satisfaction among employers who indicate they intend to continue sponsoring coverage in the future is 106 points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) than among those who intend to drop coverage - 696 vs. 590, respectively.

"You can minimize the impact on satisfaction with the members and employees if you offer value-added benefits. And one of the things we're seeing in our data and the employer data is that while health plans are offering a lot of the primary and secondary services that the employees are asking for, a lot of the employers aren't taking advantage of those things; they're not offering them to their employees," says Hawkins.

 

 

 

Employers reluctant

Simple things like gym memberships, health risk assessments, drug compliance plans for employees with chronic conditions, for example, "will help satisfy the members and help them feel they're getting value for what they're paying," says Hawkins.

But, he continues, "what we see now is that a lot of plans are offering them to employers, but not many of them are taking them up on it." He suspects cost is the main reason employers may be reluctant to offer these programs to employees.

In both the fully insured and self-funded groups, employer satisfaction with program offerings, such as preventive health programs, disease management or wellness initiatives, is a key area of differentiation between employers who intend to offer coverage in the future and those who intend to drop coverage. In the program offerings factor, the gap in satisfaction scores between fully insured employers who intend to offer coverage in the future and those who intend to drop coverage is 104 points - 705 among employers who intend to offer coverage, compared with 601 among those who intend to drop coverage.

Among self-funded employers, meanwhile, the gap in satisfaction scores between those who intend to offer coverage in the future and those who intend to drop coverage is also 105 points - 689 among employers who intend to offer coverage, compared with 584 among those who intend to drop coverage.

The 2013 Employer Health Plan Study is based on responses from 5,857 employers.

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