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Two recent surveys offer some surprising results about the perceived value of health benefits.

A man owned a small ranch in Montana. The state’s Wage & Hour Department claimed he wasn’t paying proper wages to his help, and sent an agent to interview him.

"I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them," demanded the agent.

"Well," replied the rancher, "there's my ranch hand who's been with me for 3 years. I pay him $600 a week plus free room and board. The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $500 per week plus free room and board. Then there's the half-wit who works here about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes $10 per week, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night."

"That's the guy I want to talk to - the half-wit," says the agent.

"That would be me," replied the rancher.

A recent survey set out to determine what employees really want. Harris Interactive and Kronos asked over 1,000 American workers (of all ages) what they wanted from their employers. Over three-quarters of them said that their motivation would increase if their employers offered additional benefits, including health insurance and flex-time. Of course, most also wanted that insurance paid completely by their employers, and greater matching for their retirement plan contributions (e.g. 401k, etc).

Bonuses, flexible schedules and “compressed” workweeks rounded out the wishlist.

Another interesting finding was that lack of employee benefits and low job satisfaction has about 20% of the workforce seeking different employment.

On the other hand, Aetna surveyed 1,000 young workers (age 18-24), and found that health coverage is not a top priority. Indeed, some two-thirds of these young people would rather use whatever they would have contributed to health insurance premiums toward other priorities: paying down debt, building savings or pumping up their retirement plans. In fact, almost half would prefer to pay for their cell phone service than health insurance.

Almost half indicated that, when job-hunting, a higher salary trumps health benefits. Small wonder, then, that almost two-thirds of those surveyed spent a half hour or less even reviewing their options before choosing a health plans.

Perhaps not surprisingly, about a third of these young workers are uninsured. About half of these cited affordability as the primary reason, and a third plan to sign up for benefits when they’re offered. On the other hand, uninsured employees who’ve recently had medical expenses overwhelmingly (over 90%) said that they wished they’d been covered.

So, what’s all this mean?

Well, there are really two issues. The first is that it’s unfortunate that so many folks still don’t understand that employers do not actually pay for health insurance or match retirement fund contributions. The sense of entitlement apparent in these results is disheartening, of course, but hardly surprising. It would be nice if there was more of an effort to educate the public about some of the basic principles of economics.

Second, it isn’t difficult to understand the younger generation’s perspective on the value of health insurance. After all, at that age, we’re al invincible (at least in theory). Absent some significant problem, how many youngsters really believe that their health could ever be in jeopardy? So of course the latest ringtones and Razr’s take precedence over insuring that potential medical bills will be paid.

Please don’t shoot the messenger.

Be well.

Henry Stern, LUTCF is an independent insurance agent in Dayton, OH. A licensed Continuing Education instructor for Ohio and Kentucky, he has well over 20 years of experience in “the biz.”  He blogs every day (or so it seems) at InsureBlog.

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from InsureBlog on Sat, 09/09/2006 - 9:22pm

The latest Dispatch is up at The Medical Blog Network. This week, we take a look at two recent surveys - one from Harris/Kronos and the other from Aetna - about how employees view the value (and importance) of their benefits.

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