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Report: Employers aren’t improving healthcare literacy

improving health literacy

“Employees still are not getting the information they need to make informed choices about their healthcare coverage or how to use that coverage effectively.” - Optavise's 2023 Healthcare Literacy Report.

In 2023, fewer employees were confident they understood how their healthcare plans work compared to last year, according to Optavise’s 2023 Healthcare Literacy Report. This is a concerning statistic for employers who strive to improve healthcare literacy.

Notably, understanding of healthcare plans is linked to satisfaction. The 90% of employees who said they were extremely confident in understanding their plan reported more plan satisfaction. This is in comparison to the 13%-14% of employees who weren’t confident at all. These findings illustrate that investing in employees’ benefits education can reduce healthcare costs for employers and employees and increase employee satisfaction and engagement.

Additional healthcare literacy survey observations  

Of more than 1,000 surveyed U.S. workers, 35% reported teaching themselves about terms and processes by going online or reading other materials. Nearly half (46%) reached out to friends, family and co-workers for benefits information, although these people are unlikely to be benefits experts. Additionally, just 27% of surveyed employees said they received their information from their employer’s HR team. This is a decrease from 30% in 2022 and the lowest percentage reported in the past four years.

Knowledge gaps were greatest in the education, retail and manufacturing industries. They were also significantly correlated to age. Unsurprisingly, generations with more experience in the workforce and with benefits decisions had a greater understanding of benefits. On average, 80% of baby boomers reported knowing key healthcare terms like premium, deductible and copay, compared to 76% of Generation X, 68% of millennials and 60% of Generation Z.

Employer takeaways

Employers play a crucial role in helping employees understand and select healthcare benefits. The survey found that employers most commonly provided healthcare information via online resources (63%), printed materials (49%) and emails (44%). However, just 68% of employees reported online resources to be very or extremely helpful and less than half (49%) found emails very or extremely helpful compared to one-on-one conversations (80%).

Group or one-on-one sessions with HR experts can greatly increase employees’ health literacy. They also increase the likelihood that employees will supplement employer-sponsored coverage with voluntary or buy-up coverage.

Additionally, the survey found that employees were more likely to examine their existing coverage and add coverage to fill gaps when they were required to reenroll every year. Employers should educate their multigenerational workforce on how to review their coverage, compare medical costs and check medical bills for inaccuracies to increase employee confidence, literacy and satisfaction.

Not sure how to get started? Schedule a time to meet with HANYS Benefit Services' experts to discuss your available options. We’re more than happy to review your current employee benefits and how to improve them.

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