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SouthWest Benefits Association Survey Finds Employers Continue to Focus on Health and Wellness during Economic Downturn
Date:6/23/2009

Research indicates health of employees is priority; efforts to reduce costs include dependent eligibility audits

DALLAS, June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the SouthWest Benefits Association, a regional, non-profit established to foster relationships and support the educational growth of professionals in employee benefits, released the results of its employer survey regarding benefits plans in light of current economic challenges.

"The responses indicate that as employers develop benefit plans for 2010 they are looking for ways to reduce benefit costs, without further reducing benefits," said Marianne Fazen, executive director of the SouthWest Benefits Association (SWBA). "Surprisingly, many responded that they plan to increase their wellness programs."

Key Survey Findings

  • Thirty-five percent of employers responded that they plan to increase their wellness programs.
  • Companies are concerned/very concerned that limited merit budget/bonus pools (68 percent) and limited benefits budgets (53 percent) will be two of the largest issues that human resources will face compared to last year.
  • To weather the economic downturn, almost half of respondents (48 percent) are auditing or planning to audit their employees' dependent eligibility in order to reduce covered lives; 41 percent are increasing or planning to increase employee cost sharing; while over one-third (35 percent) have reduced or are planning to reduce staff.
  • The employers' view of their workers' response to the economic downturn indicates that they believe 89 percent will delay retirement, 83 percent are concerned about job security and 42 percent are impacted by low morale.

SWBA's survey was facilitated by Buck Consultants and was submitted electronically to SWBA's employer members.

"Reflecting the reality of the times and the need for more stringent cost, expense, and plan management, employers are more aggressively implementing cost-reduction actions aimed at uncovering hidden costs, such as dependent eligibility audits," said Jorge Font, MPH, a principal with Buck Consultants in Houston and past president of SWBA. "At the same time, employers indicate they want to continue to increase their investment in health improvement and wellness programs, while trying to avoid other benefit cuts or cost shifting through disproportionate increases in monthly premium, co-pays, and deductibles. It appears companies wish to maintain benefits for employees that are staying and being asked to work harder."

ABOUT SWBA

Founded in 1975, the SouthWest Benefits Association is a regional, non-profit organization designed to foster relationships and support the educational growth of professionals in employee benefits. Members represent a wide range of specialties, including corporate human resources, benefit plan administration, financial management, investment counseling, third party administration, law, accounting, actuarial, and consulting. Through an annual schedule of professional educational conferences and workshops, SWBA provides its members the opportunity for discussion of a wide range of issues confronting professionals in the complex and increasingly regulated field of employee benefits. www.swba.org

Note to editors: The full report is available upon request.


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SOURCE SouthWest Benefits Association
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