Emory Report
August 28, 2006
Volume 59, Number 1



Emory Report homepage  

August 28, 2006
"Results are in" from employee survey

Katherine Hinson is director of communications for Human Resources.

This past spring Emory University and Emory Healthcare held 14 focus groups to gather employees’ opinions about Emory’s current medical and prescription drug benefits. Faculty and staff from various locations —including the main campus as well as Emory University Hospital and the Emory Clinic, Oxford, Decatur Plaza, Wesley Woods and Emory Crawford Long Hospital—were randomly chosen and invited to attend these sessions. To encourage participants to share their opinions candidly, Emory asked an outside firm to conduct these focus groups.

The focus group discussions centered on four key themes:
• What Emory employees value in health care;
• Current cost trends in health care;
• Effective health care consumerism; and
• Employees’ views on possible changes to Emory’s health care plans.

What do employees value?
Emory employees value choice of doctors and access to doctors. In addition, employees value low cost – including premiums, out-of-pocket costs and deductibles. While most people said they don’t mind being guided to use Emory doctors, several people mentioned lengthy wait times for appointments. These discussions brought to light the fact that not everyone was familiar with the Emory Employee Access (EVIP) phone number.

What did employees say about rising health care costs?
Employees said they believe that rising health care costs should be a shared responsibility and that, as a health care provider, Emory should be able to negotiate better “deals” with insurance carriers. People also said prescription drugs should be provided at reduced prices through Emory’s purchasing power. Employees felt that people who make risky lifestyle choices (smoking, not maintaining a healthy weight, etc.) should pay higher premiums or co-pays, or that people should be rewarded for making healthier lifestyle choices. These rewards could include free or discounted gym memberships.

What are views on health care consumerism?
Focus group participants were asked to grade themselves as effective health care consumers, and asked what it would take to become better health care consumers.
What is health care consumerism?
It involves taking the time to acquire information, then making informed decisions. Smart consumers shop around before they make an important purchase like a new car, a refrigerator or a computer. Smart health care consumers think of their health, lifestyle and benefits choices in the same way – whether they are choosing a health insurance plan, a physician or a generic vs. a brand name prescription drug – they make informed decisions. They consider the number of visits made to providers annually, the number of medications they are taking, whether they have ongoing chronic conditions that require monitoring, and then factor these in when making benefits choices.
Some employees in the focus groups thought we gave out some “conflicting messages” – an Emory career can demand long hours that can prevent healthy lifestyles. Recognizing the importance of these comments, Emory is working to promote a culture of health and empower employees to participate in healthy lifestyles.

What’s being done with the feedback?
Employees said a lot about the communication of Emory’s health care benefits. Perhaps the strongest piece of feedback was the desire to hear about the plans from an expert who really understands them. In addition, employees wanted benefit changes communicated as clearly and as early as possible. Some employees told us that they did not read the enrollment material provided or become engaged to make well-informed decisions by examining plan details.

Based on this feedback, Emory has put a communication plan in place which includes more meetings led by experts and the early announcement of changes. This year’s enrollment materials will include a guide for using Emory’s online tools and for enrolling online. Prior to and during the enrollment period, face-to-face employee meetings will be held over a three week time period. These meetings, currently planned to run from Oct. 12 to Oct. 31, will be scheduled at various times and locations to allow everyone the chance to attend.

Emory appreciates all the employees who participated in the health care benefits focus groups, and the invaluable input they provided. This year’s annual enrollment process should be the best yet – with everyone’s full participation.

Benefits Enrollment Planner

• Notice of any plan changes, Notification: Sept. 18, Action: Read and learn
• Enrollment packet, Receive: Oct. 6, Action: Read and learn
• Face-to-face meeting, Oct. 12–31, Action: Attend a session to get more information; get questions answered; understand the benefit choices available
• Enrollment, Oct. 24–Nov. 7, Action: Make informed decisions; and enroll.

Current health care trends:
• The U.S. spends 15% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care compared to 10% in Europe or Canada.
• Total health care spending in the U.S. increased by just under 8% in 2004 to $1.9 trillion or $6,280 per person. Meanwhile, Emory’s total health care spending increased by 13.5% during the 2004 – 2005 plan year.
• A 2006 study estimated that a couple age 65 retiring today and living to average life expectancy would need $295,000 to cover premiums for health insurance and out-of-pocket expenses during retirement.
• Poor eating habits and inactivity are the root causes of overweight and obesity. The prevalence of overweight youth ages 12 to 19 have tripled between 1980 and 2004, going from 5% to 17.4%.
• More than 6% of the U.S. population has diabetes but only two out of three of them have been diagnosed.
• Some health care experts believe consumer-driven health plans, with individual accounts, lower premiums and higher deductibles, offer the best hope for a sustainable way to manage health care costs in the future. One study forecast that 25 million people could be covered by one of these types of plans in 2012.

Emory’s healthy employee initiative highlights
• On-site workout facilities
• Walking trails
• Services provided by Emory’s Faculty Staff Assistance
• Program and Emory Healthcare’s Employee Health Services

Emory employees receive discounted membership rates at the following sports fitness facilities:
• Blomeyer Health Fitness Center: 1525 Clifton Rd, 5th Floor; 404-727-4600; http://emory.hr.emory.edu/blomeyer/Blomeyer.html

• Plaza Executive Health Club: 600 Peachtree St.; 404-874-4584; http://www.theplaza-healthclub.com/

• Woodruff Physical Education Center: 600 Asbury Circle; 404-727-6547;http://www.wpec.emory.edu/

• Student Activity and Academic Center: 1946 Starvine Way; 404-712-2430;

• Williams Gymnasium, Oxford College: 770-784-8453; http://www.oxfordathletics.emory.edu/facilities.html

• Covington Athletic Club (Must present Oxford employee ID): 10100 Alcovy Rd., Covington; 404-784-8376;

• LA Fitness (Available at all locations – show your Emory employee ID): http://www.lafitness.com/Pages/default.aspx

Need help scheduling an appointment with an Emory Clinic physician? Employees can call the appropriate department to schedule an appointment; however, if the time frame for the appointment is not satisfactory, employees can call a special Emory VIP hotline, 404-778-EVIP, anytime between
7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday to get the help they need!