It’s open enrollment season again, which means that employees across the country are assessing the insurance options offered by their employers and trying to understand which plan will offer the most value for their hard-earned dollars. With the ongoing pandemic and resulting economic recession in play, this year making the right benefits selection seems all the more urgent. But do consumers have the information and understanding they need to make truly informed choices? New research out of the University of Dayton suggests that they don’t. Hypothesizing that the number of choices was a core driver of confusion in selecting an insurance plan, the researchers set up a simplified scenario where the 2,300 employees surveyed were given just two choices—in fact, the plans were identical in every way but cost. Nevertheless, almost a quarter of employees chose a substantially more expensive plan (think $2,000 or more). With 180 million Americans relying on employer-sponsored health insurance, this finding is alarming. Researchers suggest, and we tend to agree, that what employees really need are better search and analysis tools to guide them through plan selection—and who better to develop and deploy these tools than the payors who offer the plans? In fact, our primary question is why these tools don’t exist already. We suspect it’s because saving members money isn’t actually the primary concern of many health plans.
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