Tell employees they will have to pay more for health care, then stand back and watch their blood boil.

That’s according to a Towers Perrin survey on health-care consumerism.

Employees consider health-care costs to be a problem, but they believe someone else should fix it, says the human-resources consulting firm (See related story: '03 Talks Amount to Bitter Pill for Big 3, UAW).

“Our poll reveals serious disconnects between employee and employer perceptions,” says Jim Foreman, Towers Perrin managing director-health and welfare.

The challenge for employers, Foreman adds, is “convincing their employees to change behavior around utilizing health care, while their workforces feel they already pay a fair share of health-care costs and view themselves as effective health-care consumers.”

The survey suggests 63% of employees agree rising health-care costs negatively impact employer profits, but less than half – 48% – believe employers are powerless to stop the bleeding.

Strongest opposition comes from workers who are 35 and younger. Just 28% of this group believe it’s fair of employers to increase health-care costs. Meanwhile, more than 50% of workers aged 35 and over believe increased contributions are worthwhile.

Through an effective communication strategy, employers can “provide employees with the tools they need to become better consumers,” says a United Auto Workers union statement.

“Health-care consumerism is a shared employer-employee responsibility,” Foreman says. “Employers provide employees with the tools they need to become better consumers. Employees, in turn, agree to share in the costs and make informed decisions about lifestyle and health-care choices.”