Health care affordability is placing an escalating strain on employees and dwindling satisfaction with their health plans, especially as costs are growing faster than inflation and income increases, finds a Towers Watson survey.

Seventy-two percent of employees say they are paying more for their employer-based health care benefits this year, the survey reports, as the cost for active employees are predicted to rise 8.2 percent after plan changes for an average annual cost of $10,730 in 2011. Employee satisfaction and comfort with health care benefit plans are also declining. In fact, only 64 percent say they are satisfied with their health care plans, which is a decline from 69 percent in 2007. Regarding the cost of their health plans, 45 percent are satisfied, down from 53 percent in 2007, and 26 percent say their stress levels have increased because of health care spending.

"The growing health care affordability gap is a very real problem that employers must consider as they rethink their total rewards program and approach to health care subsidies," says Ron Fontanetta, a senior health care consultant with Towers Watson. "The key to future success is a well-designed plan with creative and meaningful consumer and wellness incentives to slow cost inflation and improve employee health and productivity."

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