Workforce.com

You Can Do Anything But Don't Mess With My Health Insurance

Employees in the U.S. consider a health plan to be the most important benefit, and would rather give up wage increases and other benefits to preserve health care coverage.

April 12, 2007
Smokers should be charged more for health benefits because their lifestyle is unhealthy; obese people, however, should be spared such an expense.

Most important, employees say in a new survey: Cut my salary, reduce my retirement benefits, but don’t touch my health benefits.

These are some of the findings of a nationwide survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health, an organization whose members include Fortune 500 companies. Employees in the U.S. consider their health plan to be their most important benefit and, in a world of rising health care costs, would rather give up wage increases and other benefits to preserve health care coverage.

“Overall, no aspect of a job is more important to workers of large companies than having good benefits,” Helen Darling, president of the group, says in a press release. “And, our survey results clearly show that the benefit most important for most workers is the health plan.”

Of the 1,619 workers at large employers surveyed, more than half said they would accept fewer health plan choices in order to keep premiums low.

Other findings include:

  • About 75 percent of employees surveyed would rather receive employer health benefits than get paid more and purchase health insurance on their own.
  • Fifty-seven percent are at least “somewhat opposed” to having the employer contribution to their health plan premium treated as taxable income.
  • About six in 10 employees surveyed are not willing to reduce their health benefits in order to improve their retirement benefits, or vice versa.
  • Eighty-three percent would rather see their salary or retirement benefit reduced rather than health benefits if their employer needed to reduce total compensation.

Seven out of 10 employees said their current benefit plan is very good at giving access to doctors and hospitals and covering a wide range of medical care, even as 60 percent said they have been made to pay more for health care in the past three years.

Even if smokers participate in a cessation program, 65 percent of employees say they should pay more for health care premiums. Obese people find more sympathy in the workplace: Not quite half—49 percent—say those who are obese should pay higher premiums.

Jeremy Smerd, Workforce Management staff writer