Survey suggests retirement benefits valued over health plans

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People are more willing to gamble with their health than their retirement, a new study found.

Some 62 percent of workers said they were willing to pay more if it meant they would have guaranteed retirement benefits, according to a recent survey by professional services consulting firm Towers Watson. But only 34 percent said they would pay up for more predictable medical costs.

Why is this the case? It could be because people are already fed up with having to pay more for health insurance, said David Speier, a retirement consultant in Towers Watson's Arlington office. Workers are often asked to shoulder a greater share of their health costs through high deductible plans, higher premiums and bigger copayments.

A separate study released earlier this year by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health found that employees' share of premium costs increased to $2,975 in 2014, up nearly 32 percent from $2,262 in 2009. And health-care costs are rising at a faster clip than inflation and outpacing wage growth, Speier said.

Consumers also reported being less content with their health-care plans overall. The survey found that 59 percent of workers said they were happy with their health coverage in 2013, down from the roughly seven in 10 workers who said they were satisfied with their plans in 2007. Towers Watson surveyed more than 5,000 full-time workers in the United States between July and September 2013.

Among the least satisfied were those who were most likely to need their benefits — those who were older or in poor health. While 62 percent of employees said their health plans met their needs, only 45 percent of workers in poor health said their plans were sufficient.