SOURCE: Aetna

August 23, 2006 18:06 ET

Juggling Expenses and Making Ends Meet: Today's Young Workforce May Be Shortchanging Their Health Care

Aetna and the Financial Planning Association Launch allaboutthebenefits.com to Increase Health Benefits Literacy Among the Fastest-Growing Uninsured Population

HARTFORD, CT -- (MARKET WIRE) -- August 23, 2006 -- A new national survey reveals that when it comes to their financial priorities, today's young workforce is focused on cell phone bills, credit card payments and savings accounts, and that health benefits are not a top concern. The survey of more than 1,000 employed men and women ages 18 to 24 found that 44 percent would rather pay their monthly cell phone bill than pay a health benefits premium. While young adults are taking some of the right steps, health benefits must be a consideration for the fastest-growing group of uninsured Americans. Roughly 30 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are uninsured in the United States.

According to the survey, young workers have set their financial priorities in areas other than health benefits coverage. Instead of paying for health benefits, 70 percent would rather contribute a portion of their monthly earnings to paying down credit card debt, building their savings accounts or contributing to their 401k. What they don't account for are unexpected accidents. The survey found that of the uninsured young workers who recently had an accident, injury or illness that required medical attention, 91 percent wished they had been insured at the time of the incident.

In response, Aetna (NYSE: AET) and the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) have launched All About the Benefits, an educational program designed to make health benefits a priority, and provide young workers with the knowledge and confidence they need to make informed health benefits decisions as they enter the workforce. The new program is an expansion of Plan for Your Health, an existing public education program sponsored by Aetna and FPA.

"As the fastest-growing uninsured population, young adults need the right resources to better understand the options available for their individual needs," said Caroline Wilke, University Relations Lead for Aetna. "We feel that it's important to educate this audience early on the value of health benefits in ways that they can relate to most. All About the Benefits provides video clips, audio profiles and an informative podcast to help young adults make decisions while providing some entertainment along the way."

Often dropped from their existing coverage (under their parents' plan, Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program) at age 19, or when they graduate from high school or college, young adults are left to find health benefits coverage on their own as they transition from high school or college to the workforce. According to the survey, young workers are not in a rush to sign up for a health plan. In fact, 46 percent of young workers without insurance say they will enroll when they can afford it and 31 percent will enroll when they get a job that offers benefits. But it's clear that this group values their health benefits when it comes to feeling and looking their best. Of the young workers with health benefits, 85 percent said dental care was the most valuable, ranking it above vision, counseling/therapy and smoking cessation classes offered by health benefits plans.

The interactive Web site, www.allaboutthebenefits.com, guides young workers through typical experiences with information and real world examples -- graduating from high school or college, interviewing and starting a new job and budgeting for new expenses. Allaboutthebenefits.com focuses on topics such as:

--  Bridging from their parents' or college's health plan to their own
--  Asking questions about health benefits during a job interview
--  Making sense of health benefits options
--  Translating insurance lingo
--  Budgeting for health expenses
    

"We found that more than half of young workers are comfortable exploring health benefits information on the Internet, similar to the percentage that are willing to shop and bank online," said Tracey Baker, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. "Allaboutthebenefits.com puts things into perspective for this group -- health plans are worth looking into because enrolling adds a safety net to protect their health and their finances."

Additional Survey Data

Results from the survey demonstrate young adults need more health benefits education.

Highlights include:

--      The young workforce reported a lack of confidence in finding
        health benefits in the following common situations:
        -    if they become unemployed (35 percent);
        -    if their employer does not offer health benefits (31 percent);
        -    if they return to school (25 percent).
--      Forty-seven percent of young workers who are covered under their
        parents' plan don't know what kind of plan they have.
--      Nearly one-third (30 percent) of the young workforce depend on
        their parents for help when choosing health benefits.
--      Young workers think 64 percent, or six out of every 10 people,
        they know are confused about health benefits.
--      Forty-six percent of the young workforce say earning a higher
        salary is the most important thing they focus on when job hunting.
        -    Only eight percent rank health benefits as their top priority
             when looking for jobs.
--      Fifty-eight percent of the young workforce surveyed say they
        reviewed their health benefits package for 30 minutes or less upon
        enrolling in a plan.

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 29.9 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life, long-term care and disability plans, and medical management capabilities. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans and government-sponsored plans. www.aetna.com

About the Financial Planning Association

The Financial Planning Association (FPA) connects those who need, support and deliver financial planning. FPA believes that everyone is entitled to objective advice from a competent, ethical financial planner to make smart financial decisions. FPA members demonstrate and support a professional commitment to education and a client-centered financial planning process. www.fpanet.org/public

About Plan for Your Health

Plan for Your Health, a public education campaign from Aetna and the Financial Planning Association, gives consumers the information they need to make health benefits and financial choices that meet their needs now and in the future. The Web site focuses on five life events when women need to re-examine their health benefits -- career, marriage, family, living single and retirement -- and offers consumer-friendly tools, tips and content that support well-informed decision-making. For more information, please visit www.PlanforYourHealth.com.

About the Survey

Ipsos Public Affairs conducted a web-based study on behalf of Aetna and the Financial Planning Association. Reflected in this research is the participation of 1,016 young professionals, ages 18-24 who are employed at least part-time. The margin of error for a sample size of 1,016 respondents is +/-3.1%. This means that for any given percentage within this report, the true percentage range is within +/-3.1% of that reported 95% of the time. Interviews were completed from July 14 through July 26, 2006.

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