New research from Aflac underscores a big opportunity for advisers to help ease employees’ confusion during open enrollment.

Conducted in 2011 by Harris Interactive on behalf of Aflac, the survey of 2,220 U.S. adults finds that 76% of American workers who make decisions about benefits coverage during open enrollment admit to making mistakes about their benefits decisions. Moreover, 74% of acknowledged say that they only sometimes or rarely or never understand everything that is covered by their medical insurance coverage. One consequence of workers not fully understanding their health care insurance policies is fear of unexpected medical expenses. In fact, 83% of respondents indicating that they are at least somewhat concerned about the possibility of an unexpected medical expense, with 30% saying they are extremely/very concerned, considering their current financial situation.

 “Far too many American workers are making avoidable mistakes in benefits coverage decisions — from not meeting deductible amounts to contributing too little to Flexible Spending Accounts — and, as a result of their lack of understanding or confusion, they often pay a price in multiple ways,” says Audrey Tillman, EVP of Corporate Services at Aflac.

In terms of cost-bearing mistakes, the most common include not electing available benefit coverage such as vision, dental or voluntary, choosing the wrong level of coverage and putting too little in flexible spending accounts.

It seems clear that adviser clients need more help communicating with employees.

“While workers certainly need to invest more time in making better educated decisions, employers can help by understanding workers’ most common mistakes, explaining their impact, and offering best-practice solutions,” Tillman adds.

Bill Kenealy writes for Insurance Networking News, a SourceMedia publication.

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