Premium hikes don’t bother employees

Benefitspro By  July 26, 2012

Despite rising premiums and out-of-pocket costs, employees are generally satisfied with their health plan.

“I thought that was a pleasant surprise,” said Helen Darling (right), president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, referring to the number of respondents (35 percent) who are more satisfied with their coverage compared to three years ago, even though two-thirds of employees have seen their health care costs go up.

Darling spoke Thursday at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to reveal findings from a new employee benefits survey done by the NBGH.

More than 1,500 employees at large companies (2,000 or more employees) participated in the survey entitled, “Perceptions of Health Benefits in a Recovering Economy: A Survey of Employees.”

Overall, nearly two in three workers (63 percent) are very satisfied with their current health coverage provided by their employer or union, according to the survey. What’s more, 87 percent rated health benefits as very important when making a decision about accepting a new job or remaining with their employer, while 78 percent rated retirement benefits as very important, which is up sharply from 63 percent in 2007.

“It’s clear employers have believed for a long time that health benefits are important for recruitment and retention of employees, and this certainly confirms that,” Darling said.

While many employees seem to be happy with the coverage their getting, most – 62 percent – don’t know how much their employers pay for health benefits. Darling estimates employee guesses are off by about $3,000.

This, Darling said, makes it difficult to communicate the perceived value of the benefits that employers try to provide their employees. “Employers need to help employees understand how rich the benefit is that they’re providing. We would strongly recommend a ‘total rewards statement’ so every employee knows what is being paid on their behalf for a health benefits package.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is compounding this misunderstanding by making employees believe their employers have not been providing the level of protection and coverage that the law mandates.

“The No. 1 [importance for employees] is very good coverage for serious illness. Most large employers have very comprehensive coverage at the back end.” Darling said. She noted that many employers were already in sync with PPACA requirements – such as the no lifetime limit provision.

“Employers really need to help employees and family members understand [that] they’ve got the protection for serious illness.”