Employees placing more value on health benefits

Experts expect that attachment to grow as the recession continues.

By Emily Berry — Posted Dec. 8, 2009

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Even a few months of economic recession was enough to make workers more grateful for health and retirement benefits offered by their employers, the most recent employee benefits survey by MetLife found.

The New York-based benefits and insurance company surveyed a group of workers in August 2008 and another group in November 2008 about how much they valued financial benefits such as 401(k) plans, as well as health insurance benefits. MetLife released the results in late October.

More than 41% of the employees surveyed in November 2008 considered workplace benefits to be "the foundation of their personal safety net," up from 33% that August.

The insurer also interviewed employers to find out what they wanted to accomplish by offering those benefits. At the top of the list: to help with work-life balance; cited by 28% of employers in November 2008 and 32% that August.

About 33% of employers surveyed offer any kind of wellness program. The number is growing, however, and is higher -- 61% -- for the largest employers (those with 10,000 or more employees). Only about 47% of the large employers MetLife surveyed in 2005 had wellness programs.

Though more employers recognize the value of wellness benefits than actually offer them, the trend over the past few years has shown more smaller businesses adopting wellness programs, said Ron Leopold, MD, MPH, national medical director for U.S. business at MetLife.

The recession hasn't dampened the appetite for or the adoption of wellness programs, according to MetLife's latest research, conducted after the survey, Dr. Leopold said.

"All evidence suggests [they're] only going to grow in importance," he said.

The study is available online (link).

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