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Small Business Digest


National Benefit Survey Reveals Regional Differences

Among U.S. employers, those in Northeast are least likely to use health-risk and -screening programs and to identify prevalent chronic conditions in their workforces in administering employee benefits, the latest annual benefits survey of the nation's employers found.

The 2009 United Benefit Advisors Employer Benefit Perspectives survey also indicates that employers in the Western U.S. are least likely in the nation to utilize personalized statements that show each employee his or her "hidden paycheck" -- the value of the employee's total pay and benefits.

The survey was conducted by United Benefit Advisors LLC (UBA), an employee-benefits advisory organization.  The survey delineates employers' positions and opinions on employee communications, personal-health management and scope of benefits Offered. The survey is a compilation of information from 1,650 employers representing all major industry classifications, employee-size categories and regions of the country. The results can provide employers with critical benchmarks that will allow them to compare attitudes and strategies regarding employer-provided benefits with those of their peers and competitors.

Here is a closer look at the results:

UBA's vice president for member services, William Stafford, called the survey's discovery about the Northeast's lagging utilization of health screening "somewhat disconcerting." He said the Northeast region's employers also "were the least likely to employ some proven wellness techniques such as the use of health-risk appraisals and health-screening programs (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.), and on-site mammograms.

"Equally worrisome," Stafford added,is that "these employers are not utilizing programs to identify chronic conditions prevalent within their workforce at a level comparable to other regions of the country, with just 12% of them using these programs." Also, Stafford said, "Only 5% currently use predictive modeling tools to help manage potential large claims before they occur."

Differences the survey turned up in the Western region related to employers' communication with their workers about benefits. Although the West has the highest percentage of employers who utilize employee meetings and dedicated Web sites for employees to receive and access information, that region has the lowest utilization of personalized pay-and-benefit cost statements (hidden paychecks).  At the same time, the employers in the West felt their employees were the least aware of why employers are increasing benefit costs or reducing benefits.  

Nearly one-third of all employers polled now use a dedicated Web site for employees to access employer-provided benefits (employee portal), with 79% of employers with more than 1,000 employees utilizing this technique.

Between one-fifth and one-third of the employers responding provide personalized employee total pay-and-benefit cost statements (hidden paychecks) to communicate the total value of their offerings.

More than 80% of the employers responded that they felt employees are at least aware of the healthcare crisis and the reasons for increasing cost-sharing or benefit reductions.  However, the largest employers (those with more than 1,000 employees) reported they felt that one in five of their employees had little awareness of these issues. Employers with fewer workers said they felt that a much smaller share of their employees showed so little awareness of the issues.

One area of concern, according to Stafford, was "the particular industry segments that have low adoption rates of prevention and wellness plans."  These include:

* Professional, scientific, and technical services
* Construction; agriculture; forestry, mining and transportation
* Information; entertainment, food and accommodation services

These and other results of the survey are available by contacting a local UBA member employer.  To find the nearest one, go to and click on the Advisor Locator tab.

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