Workers Overestimate Their Own Health . / Credit: Scale image via Shutterstock

The majority of employees think they are healthier than they really are, new research shows.

While nearly 90 percent of workers think they're in good health, more than half report a height and weight that would be considered either overweight or obese by the body mass index, a study by Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company found.

 "Employees want to be healthy, but many have an overly rosy perception of their health and may not see an urgent need to take action," said Joann Hall Swenson, a health engagement leader at Aon Hewitt.

Not only are employees disconnected when it comes to their personal health, they are equally misinformed on what their employer pays for their health care. While past research has shown employers pay nearly 80 percent of an employee's total health care bill, which averaged $10,522 in 2012, those surveyed significantly underestimated the portion paid by their employers, guessing approximately half of the cost.

"These survey results underscore the challenges employers face as they seek to engage employees and their families in health improvement as a means to better managing rising health care costs," said Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health.

An increasing number of employers are finding success using account-based plans, commonly known as consumer-driven health plans, which give employees the ability to take more responsibility for managing their health care costs. Nearly 80 percent of surveyed employees currently enrolled in account-based plans are satisfied with the plans, with 89 percent expecting to re-enroll in 2013. For workers who have been enrolled in an account-based plan for at least two years, almost all plan to re-enroll.

"Account-based 'consumer' plans continue to rise in popularity with employers, in part, because they require workers to take a more active role in managing their use of the health care system," said Jim Winkler,  health innovation leader at Aon Hewitt. "Armed with the right tools and resources, workers who enroll in these types of plans can clearly see what health services cost, and they can use this information to be better-informed consumers when it comes to choosing the care they need and spending their health care dollars.

The research also found that consumer involvement in account-based plans may correlate to positive health behaviors, with 66 percent of those using that type of plan having made positive behavior changes related to their health since enrolling. Specifically, 28 percent receive routine preventative care more often, 23 percent seek lower-cost health care options and 19 percent research health costs more frequently.

While many companies offer employees incentives to improve their health, they might not be necessary. The study revealed that half of workers would participate in a wellness program with no financial incentive as long as it is easy and convenient to participate.

The research was based on surveys of 2,800 employees and their dependents covered by employer health plans.

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