Business owners overestimate workers’ desire for health insurance

The main reason employers offer health insurance to their employees, as we all know, is to attract and retain quality workers. The assumption is that employees appreciate the benefit so much that they factor it into their decision to accept the position and stay with the company. But is that correct? Do employees really value the health insurance benefits offered by their companies.

The answer, in general, is yes, but not nearly as much as employers think that they do. Think of it as a “yes” rather than a “YES!!!”.

BenefitsPro.com is reporting on a new survey from Robert Half in which 1,000 employees were asked which benefits they value most. Only 16% ranked health insurance number one. That’s behind additional vacation days, which 31% of respondents ranked as the best benefit, telecommuting options, which were favored by 23% of workers, and the ability to work non-traditional hours, the number one choice for 21% of employees.

Interestingly, though, when CFOs were asked what benefit their workers most valued, 39% said health and wellness benefits were the most important. Clearly, they think their employees like the health plan much more than they actually do.

So why the huge disparity? Perhaps it’s because employees are being asked, year after year, to pay more for their group coverage at the same time that deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses are also going up. Perhaps it’s because they know they have other options in the individual market and that the group plan is blocking them and their family members from receiving a tax credit. Or perhaps it’s simply because they want to spend more time with their families, and the top three benefits—vacation time, working from home, and flexible schedules—allow them to do that.

This is very interesting information for brokers who sell individual policies, especially those with a virtual storefront who are working to generate a large number of leads. We’ve explained in the past that small employers can be a great source of leads, but some agents still struggle with the conversation. How do you convince a company with fewer than 50 employees that’s not required to offer health insurance to abandon the group plan and let the employees buy individual policies? One way to do it is by showing the employer what benefits the employees truly want.

The reality is that the top three most desired benefits by employees don’t necessarily have to cost the employer anything. Some jobs do need to be done at a specific place and time, but not every job does. When it wouldn’t interfere with an employee’s productivity to let him or her work flexible hours, work from home from time to time, or take an extra day off now and then, what’s the harm? Since most companies don’t offer that sort of flexibility, the employer won’t have trouble finding qualified workers who want to stay with the company for a long time.

As for the health insurance, the employer can rest assured that the employees won’t be too upset about the decision to drop the group plan if 1) those benefits are replaced with something the employees want more and 2) the employer lets you help those employees get coverage in the individual market. Of course, this strategy only works if you have a technology solution that allows you to enroll a lot of people at once. Get that solution here.

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