Member Benefit Utilization: Does It Matter?

findings from the 2022 Healthcare Benefit Census on how members use their benefits

Do you use all of your benefits?? And does your answer to that question impact your opinion of your current health plan?

These are some of the questions we considered when First Dollar commissioned The Harris Poll to survey 1,000 U.S. adults with health insurance and either a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA); we'll refer to the adults as "members."

This blog post will share a section of the report in regards to benefit utilization. To access all of the report's findings, you can review and download the complete report here.

General Benefit Utilization

"Benefit utilization" is a measurement of member benefit usage—whew! In other words, benefit utilization helps us measure whether members are using their benefits. A health plan can offer an impressive amount of benefits to its members, but do those additional benefits matter if its members don't actually use them?

horizontal bar graph showing that 68% of members use all of their benefits, 19% do not, and 13% are unsure
68% of members use all of their available benefits

In general, the first data point is positive as more than three in five members use all of their benefits—a majority! But what about the three in ten members who do not use all of their benefits?  Let's dig deeper into the data to see if we can learn anything else about this group of members.

Language Note: We're using the term "benefit utilization" and not "benefit usage" because of previous healthcare industry research and discourse regarding "healthcare utilization." (Yes, we also know the David Foster Wallace quote about utilize.)

Benefit Utilization: Fans vs. Detractors

We asked members about their experience with their current health plan. For this blog post, we’ll refer to members who answered “very positive” or “somewhat positive” as health plan fans and members who answered “somewhat negative” or “very negative” as health plan detractors.

With the definition of fans and detractors in mind, let’s revisit the study results to examine how the two groups do or do not use their available benefits.

horizontal bar graph showing that 71% of fans use all of their benefits, while only 40% of detractors use all of their benefits
60% of detractors either don't use all of their benefits or are unsure if they do

Fans and detractors do differ in how they use their benefits. While more than seven in ten health plan fans use all of their benefits, only four in ten health plan detractors use all of their benefits. That's quite the difference!

It's safe to conclude that members with a favorable opinion of their health plan are more likely to actually use all of the plan's benefits. It's also likely safe to conclude that health plans looking to improve their NPS and member retention metrics would be wise to prioritize time and resources for improving member benefit utilization.

Benefit Utilization and Benefit Awareness

Next, let’s review the data to see if there is a relationship between member benefit utilization and benefit awareness. Do members who use their benefits also know what benefits they have?

horizontal bar graph showing that 92% of benefit users are confident in their benefit offering, while only 48% of benefit nonusers are confident in their benefit offering
48% of members who don't use all of their benefits aren't really sure what they are

While more than nine in ten benefit users are aware of all of their benefits, less than half of benefit nonusers are aware of all of their benefits. That's quite the difference, but it makes sense, right? How can you be confident that you are using all of your benefits unless you also know what benefits you have? Based on this data, we can safely conclude that health plans who solve either pain point are likely to see improvement in the other pain point.

What People Are Saying About Benefit Utilization

We asked our Instagram followers about benefit utilization. Here's what they said:

  • “I don’t even know what they all are.” - Lisa
  • “I don’t think it applies to me.” - Paula

Download and read the report!

This blog post is an excerpt from First Dollar's 2022 Healthcare Benefit Census: Understanding Benefit Utilization and Member Dissatisfaction. To access all of the report's findings, review and download the complete report here.

Research Methodology

First Dollar commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct an online survey of 1,000 U.S. adults between February 15 - February 17, 2022. To qualify for the survey, respondents met the following conditions: have healthcare insurance and either a flexible spending account (FSA) 
or a health savings account (HSA).