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Most employees satisfied with benefits but worry about long-term costs

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Two-thirds of U.S. employees say that they're satisfied with the health benefits they receive from their employers, but nearly as many are worried about the long-term affordability of those benefits, according to a survey released Thursday by Mercer L.L.C.

Eighty-nine percent of approximately 3,000 employees polled in Mercer's “Inside Employees' Minds” survey said employer-sponsored health care benefits are as important to them as the salary they earn, and 66% said the benefits they currently receive make them feel appreciated by their employers.

However, 59% of employees surveyed said they believe their health benefits will be difficult or impossible to afford in five years' time, due to rising out-of-pocket expenses, according to the report.

Fifty-eight percent of employees said they would like greater flexibility to choose their health benefits according to their individual medical and financial needs. The desire for greater flexibility in benefits selection was most prominent among employees under the age of 35.

Gillian Printon, a senior partner in Mercer's health and benefits practice in New York, said in a statement released Thursday that the level of employee satisfaction in their health benefits is “remarkable despite a marked shift toward greater cost sharing with employees and a perception that benefits are less robust today than in the past.”

“Combined with younger generations seeking more flexible offerings, this study suggests we have an increasingly benefit-savvy working population that is accepting shared accountability but with grave concerns over affordability in just a few short years,” Ms. Printon said.

Mercer's survey also indicated increasing confidence among employees in their readiness to retire.

Thirty-nine percent of employees polled said they believe they will have to work part-time after retirement in order to make ends meet, and 31% said they will likely need to reduce their standard of living, down from 55% and 40% respectively in 2013.