Employees Say Health Care Has Been Getting Worse

October 23, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Of the three legged employee benefits stool, employees are most unhappy with changes to their health-care benefits.

Only 17% of employees with insurance coverage say that coverage has been getting better compared with 24% that see improvement in their retirement benefits and more than half (53%) that say their salary has improved. Perhaps even more alarming though is the number that say their health insurance is getting worse (42%), compared with only 17% and 24%, respectively, that feel the same way about their pay and retirement benefits, according to a new Harris Interactive poll conducted for The Wall Street Journal Online’s Health Industry Edition.

Even as satisfaction with pay and retirement benefits has been on the upswing, employees are primarily interested in improving their embattled health-care plan. A 56% majority favors having no pay increase but retaining current health insurance benefits over getting a decent pay increase and having a significant reduction in their health insurance benefits.

This is particularly evident to those over 50, where health insurance was the most important. On the other end of the spectrum, 45% of the 25 to 29 age group prefer a decent pay increase and a significant reduction in their health insurance, the only group with a plurality in this area. Pluralities of all income groups say that they would prefer to keep their health insurance benefits and would not choose an increase in pay.

As the prospect for improved health care dims though, a decent pay increase is more important by two to one (66% versus 29%) than maintaining or improving their current level of health insurance looking ahead to next year.

“Employers need to focus on the best balance between the costs of pay increases and health benefits, as employee dissatisfaction with their health plans increases – as it will over the next few years,” said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll at Harris Interactive.

More information is available at http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/newsletters_wsj.asp .