Workers Underestimate Cost of Providing Health Benefits

March 13, 2009 ( - A worker sentiment study by Fidelity Investments' Consulting Services business found most workers surveyed underestimate employers' cost of providing health insurance to employees.

According to a Fidelity press release, a majority (53%) believe their employers pay less than $5,000 annually per person to provide health insurance, when, in fact, Fidelity said, health plans typically cost employers $5,000 to $15,000 per employee on an annual basis. In addition, the study found that while 72% of respondents believe the benefits they receive at work are better than, or as good as, what most other companies offer, most feel the value of benefits has dropped, with 61% of workers saying they pay more for benefits but get less or the same as they did in 2007 (see Health Care Costs Hurt America’s Competitiveness ).

In the study, workers cited health insurance, retirement savings plan matching contributions, and dental insurance as the three most important benefits, the press release said.

Almost half of American workers surveyed (48%) believe their benefits, including health insurance, retirement savings plans and pension plans, won’t be provided by their employer 10 years from now. The study found that 30% of workers surveyed think they will be responsible for obtaining their own benefits by 2019; 18% think the government will provide benefits; 28% think employers will still provide benefits to their workers; and 24% are not sure.

However, in another recent study, a majority of large U.S. employers indicated they are confident they will continue to offer health care benefits to workers 10 years from now (see Employers Committed to Providing Health Care Still a Majority ).

Fidelity found that benefits are so critical to today’s employees. One out of four surveyed said they are working more to receive the accompanying benefits than to receive the income. In addition, eight out of 10 of those surveyed would opt to have health care benefits provided through their job rather than receive a cash payment to manage their own health care needs.

When asked what their biggest concern would be if they were to lose their job today, 57% of workers surveyed said it would be being able to pay their rent or mortgage. Losing health care insurance ranked number one for 25% of workers.

Data for the survey was collected January 7-13, 2009, by the independent market research firm Synovate from 676 adults who have employer-provided health insurance coverage and work at companies with at least 100 employees.