Workers rank health benefits above raises

July 1, 2001

Pharmaceutical Representative

A recent survey commissioned by Atlanta-based Consortium Health Plans, which comprises 14 member Blue Cross Blue Shield plans operating in 26 states and the District of Columbia, found that health benefits play an increasingly important role in Americans' employment choices and job retention. Furthermore, for the first time, almost two-thirds of employees surveyed said they were willing to pay extra for key services, including continued access to prescription drugs. Employees are deeply committed to passage of The Patients' Bill of Rights, to the point of being willing to pay extra for it. Employees indicated that government involvement in healthcare reform is very important; however, they are split on whether the new administration will be successful in bringing about reform.

A recent survey commissioned by Atlanta-based Consortium Health Plans, which comprises 14 member Blue Cross Blue Shield plans operating in 26 states and the District of Columbia, found that health benefits play an increasingly important role in Americans' employment choices and job retention. Furthermore, for the first time, almost two-thirds of employees surveyed said they were willing to pay extra for key services, including continued access to prescription drugs. Employees are deeply committed to passage of The Patients' Bill of Rights, to the point of being willing to pay extra for it. Employees indicated that government involvement in healthcare reform is very important; however, they are split on whether the new administration will be successful in bringing about reform.

The survey shows that health plans that have clear and effective communication with their members are more likely to have higher member satisfaction. "Our annual survey findings increasingly affirm that health benefits are key to job satisfaction, both in terms of employment choices and staying with the same company," said Debra Shepard, vice president of marketing for Consortium. "What is startling to me is the price elasticity with regard to employees being willing to share in paying benefits. Furthermore, quality has emerged as a vital factor. Employees are ready to pay out of their own pockets for continued prescription drug coverage."

Benefits play a major role

Over 80% of those surveyed responded that health insurance has become a major factor in their decision to accept a job. Given the choice, over two-fifths (45%) of employees would prefer better health benefits over a pay increase. This is especially true of minorities (53%) and employees over the age of 45 (54%).

In terms of seeking and retaining employment, 81% of those polled stated that health benefits play a major determining role in whether they accept or remain at a job.

One of the key findings of this year's survey is that members are now willing to pay more for healthcare services, including prescription drug coverage and the possible costs associated with the passage of The Patients' Bill of Rights.

In terms of prescription drug costs, 64% of the employees questioned would be willing to pay a higher premium to keep their drug coverage. The average amount an employee would pay in addition to his or her current premium is over $35 a month.

Described as legislation that would give patients the right to sue their employers' health plans for injuries resulting from managed care decisions, seven out of ten employees indicated that they would favor The Patients' Bill of Rights. In fact, this majority is also willing to pay more for the rights promised in the bill. Even if their premiums were to rise $5 to $10 per month, 81% would maintain their position in favor of the bill.

As providers consider raising premiums, the survey indicates that employees would be satisfied with increases if plans were to broaden their coverage to include new procedures and medications. Given the choice of seven procedures and drugs typically outside the coverage of most plans, 81% indicated they would like to see laser eye surgery added to their plan. Other popular additions included birth control pills (64%) and cosmetic dentistry (59%). PR

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