Survey: Most Workers Satisfied with Health Care Benefits

Despite rising costs, a majority of U.S. workers say they are very satisfied with their employer-provided health care benefits.

Washington, D.C. — April 12
Despite rising costs, a majority of U.S. workers say they are very satisfied with their employer-provided health care benefits.

Further, most workers consider the health plan to be their most important benefit, and they have little interest in
purchasing coverage on their own.

These are among the major findings in a nationwide survey of U.S. workers released by the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit association of 266 large U.S.

Harry Spencer, chairman of the board of directors of the National Business Group on Health and Time Warner vice president for global benefits, said the survey of 1,619 workers at large U.S. employers also revealed employees are generally unwilling to reduce their health benefits to increase other benefits such as a retirement savings plan.

Most surveyed employees support the idea of charging smokers more for their health coverage, although fewer workers favor increasing costs for obese employees.

“Overall, no aspect of a job is more important to workers of large companies than having good benefits,” said Helen Darling, National Business Group on Health president. “And, our survey results clearly show that the benefit most important for most workers is the health plan.”

According to the survey, two in three respondents (67 percent) consider their health plan to be excellent or very good. An even greater number (75 percent) value the health plan as the most important benefit versus 14 percent who consider a retirement savings plan to be most important.

Workers also place high value on having a health plan that is easy to manage, allows freedom to choose doctors and limits their cost when they visit a doctor or get a prescription — at least six in 10 employees consider
these to be very important.

Fewer than four in 10 consider having a plan that covers serious illness rather than routine care or offering incentives for healthy lifestyles to be very important.

Surveyed employees feel strongly about potential trade-offs or changes that might involve their health care benefits and total compensation packages.

Respondents generally are opposed to purchasing their own coverage or changes in health benefits tax policy:

  • Employees generally are split between preferring low medical co-payments or low premiums. More than half of employees, however, would accept fewer plan choices to keep their health premium costs low.
  • About three in four employees would prefer to get health
  • benefits through their employer rather than getting additional salary to purchase their own.
  • More than half (57 percent) are at least somewhat opposed to having the employer contribution to their health plan premium treated as taxable income.
  • About six in 10 workers are not too willing to reduce their
  • health benefits to improve their retirement benefits or vice versa.
  • Most employees (83 percent) would rather see their salary or retirement benefit reduced rather than health benefits if their employer need to reduce total compensation.

“The fact that so many employees are opposed to giving up any aspect of their health benefits, even in return for an improvement in other benefits, speaks volumes as to just how important they are from a worker and employer perspective,” Darling said. “As the labor market tightens,
employers will need to place an increased emphasis on their health benefits if they want to be able to compete for talented workers.”

At least seven in 10 workers consider their health plan to be excellent or very good at providing easy access to providers and covering a wide range of services, while two in three say their plan provides a sense of security that they will be able to afford good health care.

Most employees (65 percent) feel their health coverage has remained the same over the past three years, although six in 10 say their costs have increased.

The survey also found mixed support for charging smokers and obese employees more for health coverage.About two in three (65 percent) favor charging smokers more, and one in four oppose the idea.

The support for a higher premium doesn’t change when participation in a smoking-cessation program is taken into account.

Meanwhile, more than half (51 percent) oppose an increase in costs for obese employees.

“Providing cost-effective, high-quality health care benefits to workers and their families is one of the greatest challenges that corporate America is facing,” Darling said. “Employers are spending millions and millions of dollars to provide health care benefits, and we hope the
results of this survey will give them valuable insight from employees and help them develop and design programs that best meet their overall needs.”