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July 19, 2007
What's a Co-Pay? Many Employees Would Struggle in Explaining It

Fewer than half of workers are comfortable explaining basic healthcare terms like co-pay and deductible to a friend or co-worker, according to a survey by Watson Wyatt, a consulting firm.

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In the survey of nearly 2,100 covered workers, Watson Wyatt found that a top challenge for 43 percent of workers is understanding what their healthcare plan covers.

When asked whether they'd feel comfortable explaining a co-pay to a friend or co-worker, 49 percent said they would. Even fewer respondents said they would feel comfortable explaining:

  • Deductible (46 percent)
  • Flexible spending account (36 percent)
  • Out-of-pocket maximum (35 percent)
  • Lifetime maximum (27 percent)
  • Health savings account (24 percent)
  • Coinsurance (22 percent)
  • Formulary (16 percent)
  • Center of excellence (8 percent)

"It's hard for employers to ask employees to take more responsibility for their health care when they are not speaking the same language," says Kathryn Yates, global director of communication consulting at Watson Wyatt. "Helping employees improve their health care literacy and learn the terminology can make or break a company's healthcare efforts overall."

The survey also found that most employees like to receive communication about their healthcare benefits in print. When asked to rate several delivery channels, about seven in ten said they prefer print materials mailed to their home or provided at work. Slightly fewer (64 percent) prefer receiving information via the Internet. Less than half (46 percent) favor face-to-face meetings.

"It's essential to communicate with employees in ways that meet their needs and preferences," Yates says. "By using a mix of channels and formats, employers can effectively increase understanding and empower employees to become smarter health care consumers."

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