SHRM: Employers Shift Resources Toward Wellness Benefits to Counter Increasing Health Care Costs

New survey shows patterns in health care spending affecting other employer-offered benefits

Jun 29, 2015
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LAS VEGAS — With health care costs rising, employers are turning toward wellness programs to counter some of the financial strain, according to the 2015 SHRM Employee Benefits Survey report released today by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

In another recent study, SHRM found that 77 percent of organizations saw increases in their costs and, of those organizations, nearly one-quarter (24 percent) had an increase of 16 percent or more in their overall health care coverage costs.

“Wellness benefits provide employers with a preventative approach that can reduce health care expenses for organizations over the long haul,” explained Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs. “Rising health care costs also remain a primary driver for how other benefit costs are allocated, as employers are still evaluating the impact of the Affordable Care Act.”

Press briefing: Evren Esen will be available for questions about the survey via conference call at 3:45 p.m. EST/12:45 p.m. PST today, Monday, June 29. For dial-in directions, contact SHRM Media Relations at or

The top wellness benefits offered to manage chronic diseases and other health-related issues include wellness resources and information (80 percent of respondents) and wellness programs (70 percent). Additionally, wellness benefits such as health and lifestyle coaching, smoking cessation programs, and premium discounts for getting an annual risk assessment have risen in the past five years.

Five-year trends also show a slow shift of health care costs to employees. For example, consumer-directed health plans such as health savings accounts (HSAs) have risen by 8 percentage points, and employer contributions to HSAs have also increased by 10 percentage points.

The report also shows five-year trend increases in the percentage of organizations offering mental health coverage, contraception coverage, vision insurance, short-term disability insurance, critical illness insurance and coverage for laser-based vision surgery.

The survey of 463 randomly selected HR professionals examines more than 300 benefits.

Among other findings:

  • The most common benefits were paid holidays (offered by 98 percent of respondents), dental insurance and prescription drug programs (both 96 percent), mental health coverage and professional memberships (both 91 percent), and organization-provided break room/kitchenette and traditional 401(k) or similar defined contribution retirement savings plan (both 90 percent). 
  • The shift to defined contribution retirement savings plans and Roth 401(k) savings plans continues, with only 26 percent of organizations reporting that they now offer defined benefit pension plans that are open to all employees. 
  • The most commonly offered women’s health benefit is contraceptive coverage (83 percent).
  • Three out of five (60 percent) organizations offered some form of telecommuting: 56 percent of respondents reported that their organizations offered telecommuting on an ad-hoc basis, 36 percent part of the time, and 22 percent on a full-time basis. 
  • The three family-friendly benefits that have decreased over the last five years were bringing children into work in an emergency (22 percent), child care referral services (9 percent) and on-site parenting seminars (1 percent). 
  • The percentage of organizations paying for certification/recertification fees in 2015 (78 percent) increased, compared to 71 percent in 2011.

New benefits added to this year’s report include egg freezing for nonmedical reasons (2 percent), paid surrogacy leave (5 percent), company-provided fitness bands/activity trackers (13 percent), company-organized fitness competitions (34 percent), and company-provided student loan repayment (3 percent).

The full survey is available online at

What’s in and what’s out? For an infographic summarizing benefits that have increased and decreased over the last five years, please visit

For more surveys/poll findings, visit Follow SHRM Research on Twitter @SHRM_Research.

Media: To request an interview or to receive dial-in information for the press briefing, contact Vanessa Gray of SHRM Media Relations at or 703-535-6072 or Kate Kennedy at or 703-535-6260.

About the Society for Human Resource Management
Founded in 1948, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR membership organization devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 275,000 members in over 160 countries, the Society is the leading provider of resources to serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.

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