"Observations on the Differences and Similarities in the Japanese and U.S. Benefits Systems" and "Workers' Compensation Medical Costs Continue to Rise" and "Americans Value Having Choice in Benefit Programs,According to Recent EBRI/Gallup Survey"
Observations on the Differences and Similarities in the
Japanese and U.S. Benefits Systems—EDITOR'S NOTE: The
following article is a recap of remarks from EBRI Fellow Tomomi
Kodama made to the EBRI Board of Trustees at their June 1992
meeting. Ms. Kodama works for the Japanese Ministry of Health and
Welfare (Japan's counterpart to the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services) and joined EBRI as a fellow from July 1991 to
June 1992 to study human service issues in the United States. She
spoke about what she learned at EBRI and what ideas she would
take home.—From my work at EBRI, the first lesson I
learned was the fact that the structure of the U.S. employee
benefit system is considerably different from that of the
Japanese system. The U.S. structure of employee benefits seems to
be based on diversity and individualism. Companies have a real
choice in selecting and planning their employee benefit plans. In
order to attract and retain capable workers, each company tries
hard to find some way to provide appealing benefits for its
employees at affordable costs. In this sense, employee benefit
issues are closely related to a company's management strategy.
However, what explains the structure of Japanese employee
benefits is equity and uniformity for everyone. The Japanese
priority has been to assure equal access to benefits for
everyone, even if it sometimes means providing mediocre services.
Workers' Compensation Medical Costs Continue to Rise—Between 1980 and 1990, the cost to employers of providing
workers' compensation increased from $19.3 billion to $45.9
billion. Medical expenses are the fastest growing component of
workers' compensation, representing 44 percent of total workers'
compensation costs as of 1990, up from 38 percent in 1981.
Historically, cost management strategies have not been used
extensively to control workers' compensation medical costs. Since
1974, workers' compensation medical costs have been growing at a
faster rate than non-workers' compensation medical costs. In
order to contain these costs, employers are adopting cost
containment strategies, and states have increasingly implemented
cost containment mandates, often utilizing strategies commonly
used in health care benefit plans.
Americans Value Having Choice in Benefit Programs,
According to Recent EBRI/Gallup Survey—Most Americans say
having choice in the employee benefits offered by prospective
employers would influence their decision on whether or not to
work for an employer, according to a recent public opinion survey
conducted by EBRI and The Gallup Organization, Inc. Given the
choice between two jobs with the same salary and benefit level,
one that provides choice in selecting benefit options and one
that does not, 40 percent of Americans who are employed or whose
spouse is employed said the choice in benefits provided by the
first employer would have a great deal of influence on their
selection of employers, 44 percent said some influence, 12
percent said very little influence, and 4 percent said the choice
in benefits would have no influence.