Poll: Most Workers Smiling on the Way to the Doctor

April 12, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - As far as the vast majority of the U.S. workers are concerned, their employer-provided health care benefits are just what the doctor ordered.

A news release from the National Business Group on Health, an association of 266 large U.S. companies, said that its recent survey found most U.S. workers are very satisfied with their employer-provided health care benefits, consider the plan to be their most important benefit and have little interest in purchasing coverage on their own.

The poll of 1,619 workers revealed that employees are generally unwilling to reduce their health benefits to increase other benefits such as a retirement savings plan. Most surveyed employees support the idea of charging smokers more for their health coverage, but fewer workers favor increasing costs for obese employees.

“Overall, no aspect of a job is more important to workers of large companies than having good benefits,” says Helen Darling, President of the National Business Group on Health, in the news release. “And, our survey results clearly show that the benefit most important for most workers is the health plan.”

Staying close to home, two in three respondents (67%) consider their health plan to be excellent or very good. An even greater number (75%) value the health plan as their key benefit, versus 14% who consider a retirement savings plan to lead their benefit package.

Workers also place high value on having a health plan that is easy to manage, allows freedom to choose doctors, and limits their cost when they visit a doctor or get a prescription – at least six in ten employees consider these to be very important, according to the survey. Interestingly, less than four in ten consider having a plan that covers serious illness rather than routine care or offering incentives for healthy lifestyles to be very important.

Respondents are generally opposed to purchasing their own coverage or changes in health benefits tax policy, according to the survey:

  • Employees are generally split between preferring low medical co-payments or low premiums. However, more than half of employees would accept fewer plan choices to keep their health premium costs low.
  • About three in four employees would prefer to get health benefits through their employer rather than getting additional salary to buy their own.
  • More than half (57%) are at least somewhat opposed to having the employer contribution to their health plan premium treated as taxable income.
  • About six in ten workers are not very willing to reduce their health benefits to improve their retirement benefits, or vice versa.
  • Most employees (83%) would rather see their salary or retirement benefit reduced rather than health benefits if their employer needs to reduce total compensation.
  • At least seven in 10 workers consider their health plan to be excellent or very good at providing easy access to providers and covering a wide range of services, while two in three say their plan provides a sense of security that they will be able to afford good health care.

The national online survey was conducted in February 2007 by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc., on behalf of the National Business Group on Health. To participate, workers had to be age 22-69, be covered by their employer’s health plan, work for an employer with at least 2,500 employees and be a decisionmaker in their household regarding health care.