Despite having a variety of policy choices, many employees spend little time examining their healthcare insurance choices during annual open enrollment, according to a survey by the Employee Benefits Retirement Institute (EBRI).

The survey of 2,015 employees was taken during their plans’ open enrollment season in the fall of 2022 and found that most employees spent less than an hour making their health insurance plan choices.

“Open enrollment is the time of year when employees get to evaluate their plan options,” Paul Fronstin, EBRI’s director of health benefits research, said in a survey report released yesterday.  “Employees should consider the trade-offs between premiums and cost-sharing when making health plan decisions.”

Six in 10 employees report they are offered workplace health insurance plan choices, but most spend little time analyzing healthcare plans, EBRI found.

The exception are those employees who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), who did spend more time than traditional health insurance plan employees when analyzing their choices.

HDHP enrollees were more likely than traditional plan enrollees to user employer-provided tools to pick their health plan, ther survey found. Fifty-eight percent of HDHP enrollees used their annual employee benefits guide and 41% used their online benefits portal, compared with 38% and 29%, respectively, of employees in traditional plans, EBRI found.

Just 15% of HDHP enrollees default into auto-renewal of their current plan, while 20% of traditional employees do, EBRI found.

HDHP enrollees were also more likely than traditional plan enrollees to report that they had a choice. Some 29% of HDHP enrollees reported that they were offered three health plans to choose from, compared with 17% of traditional plan enrollees.

Overall, most enrollees feel financially secure, EBRI said. “Eight in 10 enrollees reported feeling financially secure, but HDHP enrollees were slightly more likely than traditional plan enrollees to report feeling financially secure,” EBRI found.

Nearly 30% of enrollees noted that that their premiums and out-of-pocket costs have risen in the past year. HDHP enrollees were more likely than traditional plan enrollees to report higher out-of-pocket costs, EBRI found.

Enrollees did indicate they are confused about whether their health plans cover preventative care for chronic or acute illnesses. “While 37% of HDHP enrollees reported that their health plan covers preventive care for chronic conditions before they reach their health plan deductible, about the same amount did not know if their plan covered such preventive care,” EBRI found.

More traditional plan enrollees said they would be more likely to choose a HDHP if they knew preventative care was covered before they reached their deductible, EBRI said.

“One-quarter of traditional plan enrollees reported being extremely or very likely to select an HDHP if it covered preventive care for chronic conditions before they reach their deductible. Another 39% reported being somewhat likely to select an HDHP if such preventive care were covered pre-deductible,” EBRI reported.

That finding comes as enrollment in health plans with high deductibles that were not eligible to be paired with a health savings account (HSA) fell from 15% to 12% between 2020 and 2022.

Enrollment in HSA-eligible health plans and health reimbursement arrangements reached a record high in 2020, with 19% enrolled in such a plan, EBRI said.  Enrollment in such plans fell to 18% in 2021, but increased back up to 19% in 2022, EBRI reported.

Most important to employees when selecting a plan were the network of health care providers, low out-of-pocket costs, low premiums, prescription drug coverage and simple to understand, EBRI said.

“Generally, traditional plan enrollees and HDHP enrollees ranked these aspects of healthcare in the same order with one exception: Traditional plan enrollees reported that low out-of-pocket costs for doctor’s visits were more important than low premiums,” EBRI said.