Employee satisfaction with health benefits cooling

Employees generally value their benefits packages, with a high percentage of workers reporting that their bennies are just as important to them as the salary they draw. But when the focus is on health benefits alone, workers, put off by higher out-of-pocket expenses, aren’t sure how valuable their coverage is.

That's what Mercer gleaned from an ambitious survey of 1,506 retirement plan participants. Mercer does an annual workplace survey, and so has nearly a decade of data to draw conclusions from. Its questions on employee satisfaction with benefits revealed the harsh truth about employer-sponsored health coverage.

“Benefits remain a critical element of the employee experience, and the vast majority of workers agree that benefits are just as important to them as their salaries,” Mercer intoned in a news release. “But ... the perceived value of benefits is eroding among workers who complain about out-of-pocket health care expenses.”

Mercer uncovered a much wider vein of dissatisfaction with health benefits among workers under 50. When asked whether they thought their health package was “definitely worth it” in 2011, 45 percent said it was. More recently, that number cratered to 30 percent.

Younger workers in smaller companies are the most likely to find fault with company health plans, especially as those plans shift more cost to employees and strip out benefits that once were offered to them.

“Workers in smaller organizations of 500 or less employees are likelier than those in large firms of 2,000 or more to report that their health benefits were scaled back,” said Rich VanThournout, relationship management leader for Mercer’s benefits administration business. “This reflects efforts by smaller businesses to control health benefit costs by increasing the deductibles and co-pay amounts of health plans.”

Having company-sponsored benefits is generally seen as a positive. Just 15 percent of those surveyed said “my benefits don’t matter much to me.”

But health benefit satisfaction has been steadily dropping. In its latest survey, 32 percent agreed that their health benefits were “definitely worth it.” That's the lowest number since 2008’s 28 percent. The high of 44 percent came in the 2011 survey.



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