The Job Benefit We Covet Most Is ... Health Care, of Course

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What motivates American workers to get up in the morning, out the door, and into their office cubicles? Glassdoor knows.

Last week, the jobs and career community website published the results of its latest Quarterly Employment Confidence Survey. Among other things, it reveals which fringe benefits American workers value most highly. The item that came in at No. 1 will come as no surprise to most people (and certainly no surprise to President Obama): Once you take salary out of the picture, what we want most is health care coverage.

Fully 76 percent of workers surveyed across the nation agreed that the company medical plan and health insurance is the single most important job perk they get. It's more important to us than paid vacation days, more important than help ensuring a secure retirement, more important than employee discounts, tuition reimbursement, or free coffee in the break room.

Here's how the numbers break down:

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Of course, as the potential costs of Obamacare continue to weigh on some employers' minds, many these days seem more concerned with finding ways to avoid giving health care to their employees, rather than emphasizing this most desirable of fringe benefits.

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Recognizing that -- at least up until it was postponed last week -- the Affordable Care Act would soon require businesses with at least 50 full-time workers on the payroll to provide reasonable health benefits to employees who work more than 30 hours a week, company executives came up with at least a couple of ways to dodge the requirement.

On one hand, they could fire enough workers to dive back beneath the 50-employee threshold. Alternatively, they could cut the hours of part-time workers to fewer than 30, sidestepping the insurance requirement that way.

They do so at their peril, however.

Pay Up, or Your Staff May Ship Out

In addition to telling us what perks employees most want, Glassdoor's survey also contains a more surprising finding: With the job market starting to perk up a bit, employees are beginning to feel they've got a bit more leverage.

Importantly, Glassdoor's survey results note that 43 percent of people currently employed believe that if they quit their jobs, they could find something at least as good elsewhere in six months or less. Shockingly, 39 percent of unemployed workers agree with them -- that six months of hard looking can land them jobs that match their "experience" and desired "compensation level."

Glassdoor notes that this is the single most optimistic report in this regard it's seen since third-quarter 2009. Are workers right about how good the job market is looking? Companies that refuse to pay up for health insurance could soon find out.

The Final Straw

According to Glassdoor, 40 percent of employees are expecting to see their compensation increase in the year to come -- an expectation that could lead to exceptionally hard feelings if they find their benefits cut instead. And consider that 23 percent of all workers surveyed were already planning to look for new jobs when the year began.

About two-thirds of employees already get health care through their employers, the Census Bureau notes. (And a remarkable 98 percent of businesses with 50 or more workers already offer the benefit.) But for those companies that don't provide that perk, higher costs for health care (eventually) and emboldened workers ready to make a stand for higher salaries could mean significantly higher payroll costs in the near future.

This bodes ill for their profits, but good for worker paychecks ... and for their benefits packages, too.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith hasn't worked an office job in years... and that alone is "fringe benefit" enough for him.

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Obamacare's Reach - Which States Will Benefit the Most and Least
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The Job Benefit We Covet Most Is ... Health Care, of Course

According to a study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services and the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Kentucky will be the biggest winner in the proposed Medicaid expansion. Currently, 16.1% of Kentuckians under 65 are uninsured. The new Medicaid rules will reduce the number of poor people without insurance by 57.1%.

Kentucky voted for John McCain in 2008.

Currently, 18.7% of Oregonians under 65 and 12.8% under 18 don't have health insurance. Under the proposed Medicare rules, the number of poor people without insurance will drop by 56.7%.

Oregon voted for Obama in 2008.

Times are tough in the Mountain State: 18.6% of West Virginians under 65 are uninsured. If the state adopts the Medicare rule change, the number of uninsured poor people will drop by 56.7%.

West Virginia voted for McCain in 2008.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Hailey has already vowed to reject the Medicare expansion. Her state has one of the highest percentages of uninsured citizens: 19.9% of South Carolinians under age 65 don't have insurance. 12.7% of children under 18 are also uninsured. Under the proposed new Medicare rules, the percentage of poor people without health insurance would drop by 56.4%.

South Carolina voted for McCain in 2008. It's also where the first shot was fired in the Civil War.

Like South Carolina, Mississippi has also announced its plans to reject the Medicare expansion. And, like South Carolina, it could especially use the health care funds: 20.2% of Mississippians under 65 and 12.7% of those under 18 don't have insurance. Under the new rules, 54.9% of those poor people currently without health insurance would get it.

Mississippi voted for McCain in 2008.

At the other end of the scale, Delaware is one of the states that stands to benefit least from a Medicare expansion. Only 11.8% of people under 65 in the state are uninsured. Still, with the new rules, the number of uninsured people under the poverty line would drop by 15.9%.

Delaware voted for Obama in 2008.

With an uninsured population of just 13.3%, New York also won't get much out of the new Medicare expansion. Even so, the number of poor people without insurance in the Empire State will drop by 14.8%.

New York voted for Obama in 2008.

Arizona has one of the highest percentages of uninsured citizens: 21.2% of people under 65 and 16.2% under 18 don't have insurance. Even so, the Medicare expansion won't help the Grand Canyon state all that much: it will only reduce the number of poor people without health care by 13.6%.

Arizona voted for McCain in 2008.

Vermont has one of the lowest uninsured percentages in the country: Only 10.4% of its citizens don't have health coverage. Not surprisingly, the Medicare expansion won't help that much -- it will only reduce the number of uninsured poor people by 10.2%.

Vermont voted for Obama in 2008.

Photo: Skeddy in NYC, Flickr.com

Thanks in large part to Mitt Romney's statewide health insurance program, Massachusetts is the best-insured state in the nation. Only 4.6% of citizens under 65 and 2.1% under 18 aren't insured. Not surprisingly, the Bay State will also benefit least from the Medicare expansion: it will only reduce the number of poor people without insurance by 10.2%.

Massachusetts voted for Obama in 2008.

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