LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill., Jan. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Most workers know what it takes to get and stay healthy, but they do not have accurate perceptions of their health and their health care programs, according to a new survey from Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company. However some employer strategies—such as the use of account-based plans and specific health and wellness programs—appear to be effective in motivating employees to take action to better understand and improve their health.
For the second straight year, Aon Hewitt, the global human resources solutions business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company surveyed more than 2,800 employees and their dependents covered by employer health plans to determine their perspectives, behaviors and attitudes towards health and wellness. According to The Consumer Health Mindset survey, an overwhelming majority of consumers (87 percent) say their health is good, and less than one quarter (23 percent) say they are overweight or obese. Yet, more than half (53 percent) of those consumers who report being in good health actually report height and weight that categorize them in the body mass index (BMI) overweight or obese categories.
"Employees want to be healthy, but many have an overly rosy perception of their health and may not see an urgent need to take action," said Joann Hall Swenson, health engagement leader at Aon Hewitt. "For others, the activities and stresses of daily life take priority over good health, and many consumers are unwilling to make sacrifices to improve their health. Employers can help workers and their families by first arming them with the necessary tools and resources that give them a realistic picture of their health, and then making it easy and convenient for them to make better decisions and participate in the right wellness programs."
Not only are employees disconnected when it comes to their personal health, but they are equally misinformed when it comes to understanding what the employer pays for their health care. According to a recent Aon Hewitt analysis, total health care costs per employee were $10,522 in 2012, and employers' share of that cost was $8,318. However, when asked how much of the bill their employer pays, The Consumer Health Mindset survey shows consumers significantly underestimate the portion paid by their employers, guessing approximately half of the cost.
"These survey results underscore the challenges employers face as they seek to engage employees and their families in health improvement as a means to better managing rising health care costs," said Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. "It is critical for employers to bridge the knowledge gap evident in this survey."
Using Account-Based Health Plans to Motivate Behavior Change
An increasing number of employers offer account-based plans, commonly known as consumer driven health plans, as a way for consumers to take more responsibility for managing their health and related costs. According to The Consumer Health Mindset survey findings, 78 percent of employees currently enrolled in account-based plans are satisfied with the plans and 89 percent expect to re-enroll in this option for 2013. For workers who have been enrolled in an account-based plan for two or more years, almost all (97 percent) plan to re-enroll.
"Account-based 'consumer' plans continue to rise in popularity with employers, in part, because they require workers to take a more active role in managing their use of the health care system," said Jim Winkler, health innovation leader at Aon Hewitt. "Armed with the right tools and resources, workers who enroll in these types of plans can clearly see what health services cost, and they can use this information to be better informed consumers when it comes to choosing the care they need and spending their health care dollars. In many cases, this enlightened perspective can lead to cost savings for both the employer and the consumer."
The survey indicates that consumer involvement in account-based plans may correlate to positive health behaviors. Sixty percent of employees who are enrolled in these types of plans say they have made positive behavior changes related to their health. Specifically, 28 percent say they receive routine preventative care more often, 23 percent seek lower-cost health care options and 19 percent research health costs more frequently.
Incentives Help, But May Not Always Be Necessary To Promote Health and Wellness Programs
When asked if they would participate in a wellness program, the survey found that up to half of consumers said they would participate with no financial incentive as long as it is easy and convenient to participate. Sixty-three percent of consumers say they would complete a health risk questionnaire (HRQ) for a monetary reward, and 62 percent would participate in a healthy eating or weight management programs. Almost half (48 percent) would participate in a medically-sponsored program to help them manage a health condition.
To help consumers achieve their health-related goals, employers are willing to offer incentives for actions that take more work. Over one-half (58 percent) of employers surveyed offer some form of incentive for completing a lifestyle modification program (for example, to quit smoking or lose weight). Additionally, about one-quarter of organizations report offering incentives (monetary or nonmonetary) for making progress toward meeting acceptable ranges for biometric measures such as blood pressure, BMI, blood sugar and cholesterol.
According to The Consumer Health Mindset survey findings, HRQs are also a valuable way to help consumers get an accurate picture of their overall health and receive targeted feedback to help them improve their well being. Of the workers who were offered an HRQ and received suggested action steps based on their results, four out of five (86 percent) took some action. Further, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) reported that they made at least one lifestyle improvement as a result.
"Consumers are looking for solutions that address their specific health needs and concerns," said Christine Baskin, senior vice president at The Futures Company. "Tailored, targeted feedback such as that given in the HRQ process, along with understanding individual consumer's attitudes towards health, are essential ingredients to having employees take actions to improve their health and their lifestyle."
About Aon Hewitt
Aon Hewitt is the global leader in human resource solutions. The company partners with organizations to solve their most complex benefits, talent and related financial challenges, and improve business performance. Aon Hewitt designs, implements, communicates and administers a wide range of human capital, retirement, investment management, health care, compensation and talent management strategies. With more than 29,000 professionals in 90 countries, Aon Hewitt makes the world a better place to work for clients and their employees. For more information on Aon Hewitt, please visit www.aonhewitt.com.
Aon plc (NYSE: AON) is the leading global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human resources solutions and outsourcing services. Through its more than 61,000 colleagues worldwide, Aon unites to empower results for clients in over 120 countries via innovative and effective risk and people solutions and through industry-leading global resources and technical expertise. Aon has been named repeatedly as the world's best broker, best insurance intermediary, reinsurance intermediary, captives manager and best employee benefits consulting firm by multiple industry sources. Visit www.aon.com for more information on Aon and www.aon.com/manchesterunited to learn about Aon's global partnership and shirt sponsorship with Manchester United.
About The Futures Company
The Futures Company is the leading global strategic insight and innovation consultancy. Unparalleled global expertise in foresight and futures enables The Futures Company to unlock new sources of growth through a range of subscription services and research and consulting solutions. The Futures Company was formed in 2008 from the coming together of The Henley Centre, HeadlightVision and Yankelovich. The Futures Company is a Kantar company within WPP with teams in North America, Europe, and Latin America. For more information on The Futures Company and LIVING Well, please visit www.thefuturescompany.com.
About the National Business Group on Health
The National Business Group on Health (the Business Group) is the nation's only non-profit organization devoted exclusively to representing large employers' perspective on national health policy issues and providing practical solutions to its members' most important health care and health benefits challenges. Business Group members are primarily Fortune 500 companies and large public-sector employers–representing the nation's most innovative health care purchasers–that provide health coverage for more than 50 million U.S. workers, retirees and their families. The Business Group fosters the development of a safe, high-quality health care delivery system and treatments based on scientific evidence of effectiveness. Business Group members share strategies for controlling health care costs, improving patient safety and quality of care, increasing productivity and supporting healthy lifestyles. For more information, visit www.businessgrouphealth.org.
For The Futures Company:
Emily Parenti; firstname.lastname@example.org; 919-932-8626
For National Business Group on Health:
Ed Emerman; email@example.com; 609-275-5162
 Aon Hewitt 2012 Health Care Survey
SOURCE Aon plc