If Employees Chose the Corporate Health Benefits…

Nov 29, 2012, 11:02 AM

If your employer offered you a choice of gifts for the holidays---either a $500 salary increase, or a range of health incentives such as an onsite medical clinic or gym membership---which one would you take? According to a new survey by benefits consulting firm Mercer, the hands down most popular answer among more than 10,000 employees surveyed worldwide would be, "I'll take the money!"

In the United States, 22 percent of those responding wanted the cash increase. Of those who would take one of several health incentives, the numbers fell this way:

  • 9 percent would take a $500 reduction in health insurance premiums
  • 7 percent would take $500 in a Health Savings Account
  • 6 percent would take a health incentive which would give them cash or gifts for meeting a benchmark such as losing weight
  • 3 percent would take an onsite medical clinic
  • 3 percent would take a gym membership

Perhaps if Mercer’s survey responders had seen the results of a Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health survey released a few months ago, they might have chosen the healthier gift. Just over 500 companies responded about their use of financial rewards to get employees and their spouses to better manage their health. More than two-thirds of the companies said they offer financial incentives. But 20 percent also said they have become more willing to add penalties and 10 percent have added standards employees have to meet.  Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health says she expects companies to increasingly hold their employees accountable for such health benchmarks as obesity and high blood pressure. 

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.