But Ida Hellander, MD, executive director of Physicians for a National Health Program, suggests skepticism isn't a bad thing when management starts talking about health insurance.
"The employer, depending on how big they are, has a human resources person. Where do they get their information from? A sales representative. Sales representatives have told us that they grossly overrepresent benefits and underestimate problems, and they can't believe how naive the human resources people are."
Dana Gelb Safran, ScD, director of the Health Institute at Boston's New England Medical Center, adds that some companies clearly try to steer employees toward cheaper options. "For the most part, I believe what the employers are doing is leaving the decision in the employee's hands, and basically giving them, in many, many situations, financial incentives to choose the plan the employer wants them to have."
And usually, employees choose the cheapest option -- even if it's just a savings of a few dollars a month. "For the most part, people don't walk around thinking quality is a problem. Mostly they choose a plan that costs less," she says.
How should employees choose health insurance? Safran says there's no definitive answer for that. But sometimes, anecdotal evidence is enough.
"The information that comes back [from friends and co-workers] pointing to problems is quite reliable," she says. "What we don't know about is when it comes back pointing to no problems."
The information in that case might be accurate, too, she says, or it could simply mean that the friend or co-worker simply hasn't had the chance to run into any difficulties.