Employees Want Health Care Even More Than Money

August 10, 2005
A growing percentage of employees would rather maintain or improve their health benefits than get a pay increase, according to a study of 2,299 U.S. adults by Harris Interactive.

If they had to choose, 61 percent of employees say they'd rather keep their health care benefits as is than get an increase in pay. This is up from 56 percent in 2003.

Not surprisingly given the cost-shifting that has gone on, 43 percent of adults who receive health benefits from their employers say that those benefits have gotten worse the past two to three years. Far fewer employers say their compensation or retirement benefits have declined.

Trying to save money
Policymakers and benefits directors alike have pondered how employees are reacting to higher out-of-pocket health costs. This study sheds some light on that question.

Employees were asked, "Thinking about your current health benefits, if the amount you pay out of pocket for health care (like doctor visits, tests or prescription drugs) were to increase substantially, which one of the following would you be most likely to do?"

Employees' responses were:

Save money elsewhere

40 percent

(including 19 percent who would put more money in a health savings or similar account, 11 percent who would put it in a normal bank account but set it aside for health care, and 10 percent who would spend less on other things)

Try to find a less expensive health plan

26 percent

Try to use fewer health care products and services

20 percent

Drop health insurance altogether

4 percent

Not sure

11 percent

Harris Interactive conducted the study for The Wall Street Journal Online. More information on health care is available.

--Todd Raphael