News & Commentary

Health Benefits Top Employee Wish List


Frank Diamond

Eighty-seven percent of workers consider employer-sponsored health benefits to be important or extremely important when it comes to maintaining or looking for a job, according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). That tops the list of what benefits employees like most about a job, with a retirement savings plan coming in second (77%), and a dental or vision plan third (72%).

That’s what workers want, but many feel they’re not getting it. Thirty-two percent say they are only somewhat satisfied with their benefits; another 20% are not satisfied, according to the study.

And here’s an alert for companies about morale: Only about half (49%) are extremely or somewhat confident that their employer will continue to offer a similar benefits package three years from now.

In addition, the study states that “nearly 6 in 10 workers (59%) who are extremely satisfied with their benefits are also extremely satisfied with their job overall (compared with 18% who are very satisfied with their benefits or just 8% who are not satisfied with their benefits).”

Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program and co-author of the new report, tells Plansponsor, a publication that reports on the retirement benefits industry, that “employers that offer a strong employee benefits package—especially health coverage—that balances costs and choice should find themselves with a competitive advantage over other companies when it comes to attracting and retaining desirable workers. They also will have more satisfied employees overall.”

Forty-six percent of workers who get benefits through their employers paid less than $2,500 on those benefits, according to the EBRI report; 18% paid between $2,500 and $4,999; and 14% paid $5,000 or more.

“These amounts may be more than some can afford: 1 in 10 (10%) say they reduced or discontinued some other employee benefits in the past year in order to pay for health insurance,” the study states.

Then, there are the employees who are not sure just what benefits they have. Thirty-three percent don’t know if their employer offers health insurance for early retirees; 30%, home health insurance; 30%, supplemental health insurance for retirees; and 26%, supplemental health for workers.

“Even when workers know that the benefits are offered, sizable shares (ranging from one in 10 to just over two in 10) do not know whether their employer contributes to the cost of the coverage or whether it is a voluntary employee-paid benefit,” the study states.