Most Workers Satisfied with Pay-Benefits Balance

Health insurance remains key job-choice factor

By SHRM Online staff Dec 23, 2013

Most U.S. workers say they are satisfied with their current health benefits and express little interest in changing the mix of benefits and wages their employer offers, according to a new survey by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

And even though enactment of the Affordable Care Act has raised questions about whether employers will continue to offer health coverage to their workers in the future, the importance of benefits—especially health insurance—when it comes to choosing a job remains high.

“By far, health insurance in particular continues to be the most important employee benefit to workers,” noted Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s health research and education program and author of the new report, "Views on Employment-Based Health Benefits: Findings from the 2013 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey," published in the December 2013 EBRI Notes. The survey was conducted by EBRI and Greenwald and Associates.

Fronstin also noted that workers who have health coverage are generally satisfied with it:

  • One-half of those with employment-based health insurance coverage are extremely or very satisfied with their current plans.

  • 37 percent are somewhat satisfied.

  • Only 10 percent are not too satisfied or not at all satisfied.

The percentage of workers satisfied with their health benefits has been consistently high since the survey was launched, in 1998.

“While there may be a lot of questions about the future of the American health insurance system, the majority of those who have health coverage like the plan they have,” said Ruth Helman of Greenwald and Associates, the co-author of the report.

Weighing Other Options

If tax preferences for employment-based health benefits were to change and the benefits were to become taxable, 39 percent of respondents would still continue with their current coverage level—virtually unchanged from the 40 percent level in 2012 but up from 31 percent who indicated that preference in 2011.

Also, even though most respondents expressed a desire for greater choice of health plans, individuals are not highly comfortable that they could use an objective rating system to choose health insurance. Nor are they extremely confident that a rating system could help them choose the best health insurance.

Overall, workers are of mixed minds when it comes to their preferred methods for obtaining health insurance:

  • About one-third prefer to continue getting coverage the way they do today.

  • Nearly one-half prefer to choose their insurance plan, having their employer pay the same amount it currently spends toward that insurance, and then paying the remaining amounts themselves, as occurs when companies offer defined contribution health benefits through a private health care exchange.

  • One-fifth of workers prefer that their employer give them the money and allow them to decide whether to purchase coverage and how much to spend.

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