SOURCE: National Business Group on Health

April 12, 2007 10:00 ET

Most Workers Satisfied With Health Care Benefits, National Business Group on Health Survey Finds

Survey Shows Little Employee Interest in Purchasing Own Coverage, Trading for Other Benefits

WASHINGTON, DC -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 12, 2007 --Despite rising costs, a vast majority of U.S. workers say they are very satisfied with their employer-provided health care benefits. Furthermore, 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 today by the National Business Group on Health, a non-profit association of 266 large U.S. companies.

Speaking at a press conference today, Harry Spencer, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Business Group on Health and Vice President for Global Benefits at Time Warner, said the survey of 1,619 workers at large U.S. employers also revealed that employees are generally unwilling to reduce their health benefits in order 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," says Helen Darling, President of the National Business Group on Health. "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%) consider their health plan to be excellent or very good. An even greater number (75%) 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 ten employees consider these to be very important. Interestingly, less than four in ten consider having a plan that covers serious illness rather than routine care or offering incentives for healthy lifestyles to be very important.

Health Care Trade-Offs

Surveyed employees feel strongly about potential trade-offs or changes that might involve their health care benefits and total compensation packages. Respondents are generally opposed to purchasing their own coverage or changes in health benefits tax policy:

--  Employees are generally split between preferring low medical co-
    payments or low premiums.  However, more than half of employees would
    accept fewer plan choices in order 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%) are at least somewhat opposed to having the
    employer contribution to their health plan premium treated as taxable
    income.
    
--  About six in ten workers are not too willing to reduce their health
    benefits in order to improve their retirement benefits, or vice versa.
    
--  Most employees (83%) 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," says Darling. "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."

Employers Satisfied with Health Plans

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%) feel their health coverage has remained the same over the past three years although six in ten 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%) favor charging smokers more while one in four oppose the idea. Interestingly, 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%) 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," says Ms. Darling. "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."

About the Survey

The national online survey was conducted in February 2007 by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc. on behalf of the National Business Group on Health. A total of 1,619 randomly selected workers participated in the survey. To participate, workers had to be age 22-69, be covered by their employer's health plan, currently work for an employer with at least 2,500 employees and be a decision-maker in their household regarding health care. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

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 about the Business Group, visit www.businessgrouphealth.org

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