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December 06, 2004
Most Employees 'Surprisingly' Happy With Benefits
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 consulting firm.

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.

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Only 17 percent are dissatisfied, while the remaining 23 percent have mixed feelings.

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 programs.

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 strong."

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 in 1994.

  • 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.
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