Views on Employment-based Health Benefits: Findings from the 2015 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey

March 2016, Vol. 37, No. 3
Paperback, 12 pp.
PDF, 1,381 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2016

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Executive Summary


  • This Notes article reports workers’ opinions about employment-based health coverage, based on data from the 2015 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey (WBS). It also examines 2013-2014 WBS data, as well as 1998-2012 data from the Health Confidence Survey (HCS). Both surveys were conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald & Associates.

  • Most workers are satisfied with the health benefits they have now. One-half of those with employment-based health insurance coverage are extremely (12 percent) or very satisfied (38 percent) with their current plans, and 41 percent are somewhat satisfied. However, one-third of workers would change the mix of wages and health benefits: 14 percent say they would trade wages to get more health benefits, and 20 percent say they would surrender some health benefits for higher wages. Nearly one-half of workers report that they would give up a wage increase to maintain their current health coverage.

  • There appears to be the start of a trend away from being satisfied with the current mix of benefits and wages, toward more preference for fewer health benefits and higher wages. Between 2012 and 2015, the percentage of workers reporting that they are satisfied with the health benefits they currently receive fell from 74 percent to  66 percent. At the same time, the percentage of workers reporting that they would rather have fewer health benefits and higher wages has doubled, increasing from 10 percent to 20 percent.

  • Workers have mixed views about their preferred methods for obtaining health insurance. Nearly one-half (44 percent) prefer to continue getting coverage the way they do today. Four in 10 prefer to choose their insurance plan, having their employer pay the same amount it currently spends toward that insurance, and then paying the remaining amounts themselves. And 17 percent prefer their employer to give them the money and allow the workers to decide whether to purchase coverage at all and how much to spend.

  • Choice of health plans is important to workers, and many they say they would like more choices. Eight in 10 report that choice of health plan is extremely important (41 percent) or very important (39 percent), and 17 per-cent report that choice is somewhat important. Thirteen percent are extremely interested in more choices, nearly one-third (30 percent) are very interested, and over one-third (37 percent) are somewhat interested.

  • Despite expressing a desire for more choice of health plans, individuals are not highly comfortable that they could use an objective rating system to choose health insurance. In 2015, only 10 percent say they would be extremely comfortable and 36 percent say they would be very comfortable using an objective rating system to choose health insurance. Nearly one-half are in the middle, with 47 percent reporting they would be somewhat comfortable using an objective rating system.