Resources & Insights

Health Benefits Viewed as Vital Perk

August 30, 2016

The largest employers in the U.S. almost universally continue to offer health insurance to their employees.

Scott McGraw
CCIG VP Scott McGraw

That’s one of the big findings of a new survey from the Employee Benefits Research Institute that examined what employers are doing about their health benefits.

Its research underscores that benefits are just as critical as ever in the workplace. Indeed, the Kaiser Family Foundation earlier this year found that employer-sponsored plans continued to cover more than half of the working age population, or 147 million people, this year – the same as 2015. More than half of Coloradans obtain health coverage through an employer.

To be sure, penalties that are part of the Affordable Care Act make it expensive for larger employers to bow out of benefits. The penalties range from $2,000 to $3,000 per employee. But avoiding fines isn’t what’s motivating these employers. Instead, it’s their concern for their employees’ health and productivity.

Health benefits, as any HR professional can attest, are more important nowadays than any other perk.

A full 80 percent of HR pros surveyed by the Society of Human Resources cited health benefits, more than retirement and vacation, as the best way to retain talent, up from 58 percent in 2012.

Along these lines, EBRI noted that employers concerned with attracting the best talent historically have used benefits in their recruitment.

The institute said up to 95 percent of employers with between 100 and 999 workers still offer their employees coverage. That percentage jumped to more than 99 percent among employers with 1,000 or more employees.

As expected, it’s a different story on the other end of the spectrum. The share of employers with fewer than 10 employees still offering health insurance fell from 36 percent in 2008 to 23 percent in 2015.

That’s not surprising, in part because smaller companies have long struggled to afford health care coverage for their employees. Economics, however, aren’t always at play. Often, smaller companies rely on part-time or seasonal workers rather than full-time, year-round employees who would expect benefits as part of their compensation.

EBRI undertook its survey in part to gauge the impact of the ACA, or Obamacare, on the willingness or ability of all employers to offer health coverage.

Its conclusion: the ACA hasn’t been as much of an issue as many feared.

Instead, rising health care costs, the availability of non-group coverage in the public ACA exchanges and the 2007-09 recession are the biggest factors behind any decline in employer-sponsored coverage. And, again, that’s mostly happening among smaller employers.

For larger employers, however, the ability to recruit the best talent and stay competitive eclipses any savings realized by cutting or eliminating health insurance to workers.

Scott McGraw is Vice President of CCIG’s Employee Benefits division. He can be reached at 720-330-7924 or

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