Despite significant increases in health care insurance premiums (9% in 2016 versus 6% in 2015), a new study from Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS) conducted by Harris Poll shows that employers are optimistic about delivering robust employee benefits.
Even with the seemingly endless premium hikes, the number of midsize employers offering health benefits to part-time employees has nearly doubled since 2013, standing at 26% in 2016 versus 13% in 2013. In addition, more than half of employers expect wages and profitability to increase in the next one to two years.
This year's survey also found a continued interest in workplace wellness programs among both employers and employees, TCHS observes. A large majority of employers say their workplace wellness program positively impacts workers' health (82%), and productivity and performance (80%). Employers also reported that their workplace wellness program positively impacts health care costs (72%).
“Our survey results reflect optimism both in terms of companies' financial stability and ability to provide health benefit packages,” saysTCHS Executive Director Hector De La Torre. “In previous years, the cost of providing health insurance to employees was a top concern, and while it remains a primary issue, employers are increasingly interested in adding new benefits such as workplace wellness programs.”
Overall, TCHS finds four in five employers reported their company is concerned about the affordability of health insurance and health care expenses. However, among employees, about half say their company is concerned about these areas.
Regarding the ongoing influence of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), companies are less likely to alter their benefit offerings to avoid the Cadillac tax when compared to the 2015 TCHS survey. Of the companies that say they are at risk for paying the Cadillac tax, approximately seven in 10 are planning to make changes to avoid paying it.
NEXT: Perception is the benefits reality
Other results from the survey show the vast majority (84%) of employers agree that health care benefits are important for attracting and retaining employees. About the same number (88%) of employees believe health care benefits are important to their overall job satisfaction.
While nearly one in five companies plan on changing their plan options in the next one to two years, one-third do not expect to make any changes. Altering plan options (31%) and implementing a wellness program (16%) are the two most commonly reported changes across all company sizes.
Looking ahead, researchers expect wellness program offerings will continue to rise among employers, as 28% of employers have implemented wellness programs for their employees in just the past 12 months.
“However, the survey found an ongoing disconnect between employers and employees in terms of employees' knowledge of benefits and the perception of leadership commitment to wellness,” the research warns. “More than half of employers offer wellness programs, but only 46% of employees say they work for an employer that offers wellness options. Consistent with the 2015 TCHS survey, more than 80% of employers feel their leadership is committed to improving the health of their employees, but only one-third of employees feel the same way.”
Additional findings and information are available from the Transamerica Center for Health Studies.