And the Survey Says…. Medical Benefits Heading South

CEP (Chemical Engineering Progress) will publish their next biennial salary survey (of AIChE members) in the June, 2011 issue. As in the 2009 AIChE Salary Survey, you'll learn about average salaries, starting salaries, salaries based on education level, and many more important discoveries to help assess your situation. Look for the link in ChEnected's June CEP post. If you're a member, you'll be able to access the survey results.

Ahead of publishing the survey results, ChEnected got access to some interesting responses to open-ended questions. One of them is about medical benefits provided by employers. Specifically, survey respondents were asked:

Has your employer made any changes to the benefit plan offerings in the last year?

Change was the order of the day. That word and other forms of it were mentioned 155 times. The word "increased," with respect to employee costs, was mentioned 181 times. "Decrease," with respect to coverage, was mentioned 15 times, and "eliminated" 16 times. "HSA" was mentioned 60 times, mostly talking about how their employer had added a Health Savings Account to the benefits package, but often not in the most positive light. I captured the responses in a wordle, eliminating common words and words like "health" and "employee," which were obvious to the question. It also eliminated the acronym HSA since it is not a word. Looking at the graphic, you can visualize the commonalities. You can see a larger version by clicking the image.

These responses seem to align with what most people, at least in the U.S., are experiencing in the 21st century. Costs are increasing and we're getting less.

Here are some of the more interesting negative responses to the question:

24 hours of vacation time must now be taken before short-term disability kicks in, even for hospitalizations. . 40% increase in deductible for health care, elimination of some coverage on dental. 30% increase in cost for both employee and employer. Cost went up 26%. ($135 to $170 bi-weekly) Co-pays also increased by up to 100% ( $30 to $60) for specialists. Employee share of benefits continuously increasing. Retiree benefits continuously decreasing.

Here are a few positive responses to the question:

Added $200 employer match to Health Care Flexible Spending Account. Expanded benefits to include domestic partnerships. Extended dependent eligibility to 26 years old (per law).

It's no secret that the cost of health care is increasing and that employees are bearing more and more of cost, year after year. It got me thinking about how much health benefits influence our job hunting and the job offers we accept.

Do employer-offered health benefits (or lack of them) affect your career decisions?

Would you turn down a job with a company if they had terrible benefits?