The Great Recession is accelerating the shift toward employee-paid benefits programs, according to Prudential Financial Inc.
Prudential, Newark, N.J., is discussing that shift in a report based on separate surveys of plan sponsors, plan sponsors, and brokers and consultants that were conducted in April and May. Prudential also commissioned a survey of plan sponsors in 2007.
In 2007, before the full force of the downturn became evident, only 19% of the sponsors surveyed listed sharing costs with employees as an important benefits strategy; this year, 34% of sponsors are focusing on cost-sharing, Prudential says.
Similarly, the percentage of employers saying sharing health coverage costs with employees through benefits programs that incorporate health savings accounts or health reimbursement arrangements is important has increased to 34%, from 21%. About 53% of the employers expect to be using health account programs by 2015.
Prudential is seeing evidence of a similar increase in interest in voluntary benefits.
Only 22% of brokers and consultants said increasing the number of voluntary benefit options offered is a very important benefits strategy this year, but 34% are predicting that
strategy will be highly important by 2015. About 20% of employers said expanding voluntary benefits menus is an important strategy this year; 34% said that strategy will be important in 2015.
The new Affordable Care Act, the legislative package that includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), seems to be contributing to the effects of the weak economy on the shift toward increased use of voluntary benefits, Prudential says.
About 42% of employers said recent economic conditions would increase employee participation in voluntary benefits programs, and 41% said the Affordable Care Act would have a high impact on employer contributions to employee benefits. About 36% of the employers said the Affordable Care Act would have a big impact on the number of benefits offered.