While health care and benefit costs have risen sharply over the past decade, most
workers have remained surprisingly satisfied with their employer-sponsored health
benefits, according to survey results released by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, an HR
Watson Wyatt's 2004 WorkUSA® survey of nearly 13,000 employees found that
61 percent of workers are satisfied with their health plan--virtually the
same percentage as in 1994 and 1999.
Only 17 percent are dissatisfied, while the remaining 23 percent have mixed
Two years ago, the percentage of employees satisfied with their health benefits
was slightly higher, at 64 percent.
"It appears that rising health care costs haven't diminished the high
value that workers place on the health benefit coverage they receive from their
employers," said Ted Chien, global director of group and health care consulting
at Watson Wyatt. "This demonstrates that employers are doing a good job
educating employees about the increasingly difficult burden they face in providing
benefits. But employers should remain cautious. If costs continue to rise sharply
and consume more of an employee's total compensation, satisfaction could suffer."
According to the survey, employees' understanding of the value of their total
reward package has increased by nearly 10 percentage points over the last two
years. This year, 67 percent of employees feel they are well informed about
their reward package, up from 58 percent in 2002 and 60 percent in 1999. A total
reward package includes benefits, pay, incentives, profit-sharing and stock-based
The survey also found that a growing number of workers believe their benefits
and total reward packages are better than those offered at other companies.
This year, 44 percent of workers said their employee benefits compare favorably
with others, versus 32 percent in 1999. Additionally, the number of workers
who said their total reward package compares favorably with those offered at
other companies increased from 30 percent in 1999 to 36 percent this year.
"The results of the survey highlight the importance of communication and
employee education," adds Chien. "As more companies embrace health
plans that place more responsibility on employees for making health care decisions,
employees will need to become prudent health care purchasers. The good news
is that employees' understanding of health care cost-control challenges is already
The survey also found the following:
- Paid-time-off programs: Nearly three out of four workers (73 percent) are
satisfied with these programs, compared with 71 percent in 2002 and 69 percent
- 401(k) plans: More than three out of four workers (76 percent) are satisfied
with their company-provided 401(k) plan, versus 67 percent two years ago and
65 percent in 1994.
- Pension plans: Sixty-three percent are satisfied with their pension plan,
a slight increase from 61 percent in 2002 and 58 percent in 1994.