More Ill Will About Health Coverage

Employers must wish they never got into the business of providing health insurance. Far from creating good will, such coverage has become a flashpoint for worker discontent. Fresh evidence of this emerges from a poll conducted for The Wall Street Journal Online’s Health Industry Edition by Harris Interactive among workers whose employers provide health insurance. A majority said their pay has gotten much better (16 percent) or somewhat better (40 percent) over the past two or three years. Workers were more likely to say their retirement benefits have improved (27 percent) than worsened (18 percent, with most of the rest saying they’ve done neither). As to their health coverage, though, the number of workers who see an improvement is dwarfed by the num- ber who feel it has worsened (see the chart). Would they forgo a pay raise in order to maintain their current health benefits? A majority (61 percent) said they would. But workers have mixed feelings on the matter. Asked which is more important to them as they look ahead to next year, 59 percent said “getting a decent pay increase,” while 35 percent said “maintaining or improving your current level of health insurance.” And how would workers feel about a nice raise plus an improvement in their health coverage? The notion is so fanciful that the poll didn’t bother to pose such a question.