Employers May Not Restore Benefits To Pre-Recession Levels
"Since the downturn began, thousands of employers have cut pay, increased workers' share of health-care costs or reduced the employer contribution to retirement plans," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Two-thirds of big companies that cut health-care benefits don't plan to restore them to pre-recession levels, they recently told consulting firm Watson Wyatt. When the firm asked companies that have trimmed retirement benefits when they expect to restore them, fewer than half said they would do so within a year, and 8% said they didn't expect to ever." The changes are "reshaping unemployment in America" and "eroding two pillars of the late-20th-century employment relationship: employer-subsidized retirement benefits and employer-paid health care."
One reason for the change is that "[a]lthough employers pay a smaller percentage of health costs, their dollar outlays continue to rise rapidly, as medical costs do. Employers that offer health insurance spend an average of $6,700 per employee on it this year, nearly twice as much as in 2001, according to consulting firm Hewitt Associates." Meanwhile, "workers' share of health costs is headed up. For next year, 63% of employers that offer health coverage plan to increase employees' share of the expense, according to a survey of 1,500 employers by another consulting firm, Mercer" (Dvorak and Thurm, 10/20).