Avoidable Benefits Mistakes, Personal Sacrifices Common Among American Workers

COLUMBUS, Ga. (Press Release – September 13, 2011) – As fourth-quarter open enrollment period rapidly approaches, new research shows more than three-quarters (76 percent) of American workers1 who make decisions about benefits coverage during open enrollment admit to making mistakes about their benefits decisions. In addition, 42 percent of workers say they have wasted money each year because of mistakes they made with their insurance benefits and more than four-in-five of them say they are at least somewhat concerned about the possibility of an unexpected medical expense, considering their current financial situation.

These new findings are part of the Open Enrollment Survey of the Aflac WorkForces Report, an online survey of 2,220 U.S. adults ages 18+, of whom 980 were employed full/part time and responsible for insurance decisions, conducted in August 2011 by Harris Interactive on behalf of Aflac, the No. 1 provider of supplemental and guaranteed-renewable insurance in the U.S. Among other key discoveries, the study uncovers the primary ways Americans make costly mistakes in benefits decisions and reveals the impact Americans’ concerns about unanticipated out-of-pocket expenses are having on their lifestyles.

“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,” said Audrey Tillman, executive vice president of Corporate Services at Aflac.

For example, in terms of cost-bearing mistakes and their consequences, 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 account. As a result of paying unexpected out-of-pocket medical costs, 65 percent of workers have had to make sacrifices, including cutting back on social activities (40 percent), luxury items (34 percent), purchasing gifts (29 percent) and taking a vacation (28 percent). Others admitted to working more hours (21 percent), creating a strict household budget (21 percent), and increasing use of credit cards or line of credit (19 percent).

Seventy-four percent of workers say that when thinking about their choices for major medical insurance coverage, they only sometimes or rarely or never understand everything that is covered by their policy — while slightly more than half (59 percent) of workers who choose the same benefits year after year say they only sometimes or rarely or never have a full understanding of the changes in the policies each year. Although most do not fully understand their health care insurance policies, workers are worried about unexpected medical expenses. In fact, 83 percent of workers say they are at least somewhat concerned about the possibility of an unexpected medical expense, with 30 percent saying they are extremely/very concerned, considering their current financial situation.

“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,” said Tillman.

To see this year’s inaugural study results and learn more about how individuals are vulnerable because of inadequate benefits choices, and how they can better protect themselves and their families against the unknown, visit AflacWorkForcesReport.com.

About the Aflac WorkForces Report

The Aflac WorkForces Report is an annual study analyzing the forces impacting the trends, attitudes, and use of employee benefits. Surveying both American workers and business decision makers, the Aflac WorkForces Report reconciles the perceptions and realities of benefits in the workplace. The insights aim to help businesses make informed decisions about benefits to better protect employees and their bottom line.


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Aflac from August 11-15, 2011, among 2,220 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 980 were employed full/part time and responsible for insurance decisions. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Aflac Media Relations at mediarelations@aflac.com.

About Aflac

When a policyholder gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fast. For more than 55 years, Aflac insurance policies have helped provide a safety net and have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the United States, Aflac is the number one provider of guaranteed-renewable insurance. In Japan, Aflac is the number one insurance company in terms of individual insurance policies in force. Aflac insurance products provide protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. For five consecutive years, Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere Magazine as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies and by Forbes magazine as one of America’s Best-Managed Companies in the Insurance category. In 2011, Fortune magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for the 13th consecutive year. Also, Fortune magazine has included Aflac on its list of Most Admired Companies 10 times. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac, visit aflac.com or aflacenespanol.com.

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