SOURCE: National Business Group on Health

National Business Group on Health

July 26, 2012 10:00 ET

Most U.S. Workers Satisfied With Health Care Benefits, Despite Higher Costs, National Business Group on Health Survey Finds

Majority of Workers Not Confident in Ability to Purchase Same or Better Quality Insurance on Their Own

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - Jul 26, 2012) - Despite higher premiums and out of pocket costs for health care benefits, U.S. workers' satisfaction levels with employer-provided health care coverage have either risen or remained the same compared to three years ago, according to a survey of employees conducted by the National Business Group on Health, a non-profit association of nearly 350 large employers. The survey also found that roughly one in three employees are not confident in their ability to shop for health insurance on their own, and more than half are not confident they could purchase the same or better quality insurance on their own.

The survey found that overall nearly two in three workers (63%) are very satisfied with their current health coverage provided by their employer or union. And despite the fact that nearly two thirds of workers have experienced higher premiums and out of pocket costs, roughly one-third (35%) are more satisfied with their coverage compared to three years ago. Only 12% are less satisfied and the remaining 53% said their satisfaction level has remained the same. Interestingly, while workers are satisfied with their health benefits, a majority (62%) are unable to estimate how much their employers pay for their health benefits.

The survey also found that 87% of employees rated health benefits as very important when making a decision about accepting a new job or remaining with their employer while 78% rated retirement benefits as very important, which is up sharply from 63% in 2007.

"Employers continue to make significant investments in the health of their employees, even though the slow recovery has left many employers and the overall economy struggling," said Helen Darling, President and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. "And while employers can take pride in the high value that their employees place on health benefits, with costs continuing to rise faster than the health of their businesses or the economy, many employers will need to think carefully about how much they can or want to spend on health benefits. In the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the health care reform law and a future that will include health exchanges where individuals can shop for and buy insurance, some employers will be carefully weighing their options."

The survey found that roughly one third (37%) of employees are not confident in their ability to shop for health insurance on their own. Additionally, more than half (53%) are not confident that they could purchase the same or better quality insurance on their own.

The survey also asked employees their attitudes toward trading retirement and health care benefits now versus five years ago. Today, slightly fewer employees (27%) are open to decreasing retirement benefits in order to have increased health benefits in 2007 (34%). One in three employees (36%) is willing to accept a reduction in health benefits in order to have increased retirement benefits, compared to 34% in 2007. Employees are also more likely to accept reduced health benefits (44%) to increase their salaries than reduce salaries to improve health benefits (21%). And if their employer had to reduce total compensation, most employees (46%) prefer to see their retirement benefits reduced followed by health benefits (32%), then salaries (22%).

"Although employees would like to see their retirement benefits improved and may feel their retirement savings have suffered over the past five years, they aren't willing to have that improvement come at the expense of their health benefits or even salary. The weakened economy and higher unexpendable expenses such as gas and commuting have likely put pressure on just how far their take home pay can go," said Darling.

Employees Favor Biometric Screenings, Oppose Link Cost to Wellness Participation

The survey also found nearly four in ten employees (39%) ranked biometric screenings as a very important health benefit program followed by exercise programs (31%) and on-site fitness centers (31%).

Less healthy respondents give a higher rating to programs in stress management, weight loss, and coaching programs. However, most employees (68%) do not believe employees should be required to participate in a wellness program in order to qualify for getting health insurance and even more -- 71% -- don't think employers should charge employees more for health coverage if they don't meet specific health goals.

Among the survey's other key findings:

  • Good news -- most respondents (88%) feel their personal goals are achievable; 70% are happy with the direction in their life, and two thirds (66%) have enough energy most days.

  • Not so good news -- less than half of respondents (47%) feel financially secure, one-third (36%) are overwhelmed by stress, and only three in ten (29%) feel as healthy as they can be.

About the Survey
The survey, "Perceptions of Health Benefits in a Recovering Economy: A Survey of Employees," was conducted from late May through early June. A total of 1,545 employees at organizations with 2,000 or more employees responded to the survey. Respondents were between the ages of 22 and 69 and receive their health care benefits through their employer or union.

About the National Business Group on Health
The National Business Group on Health is the nation's only non-profit, membership organization of large employers devoted exclusively to finding innovative and forward-thinking solutions to their most important health care and related benefits issues. The Business Group identifies and shares best practices in health benefits, disability, health and productivity, related paid time off and work/life balance issues. Business Group members provide health coverage for more than 50 million U.S. workers, retirees and their families. For more information, visit www.businessgrouphealth.org.

Contact Information