Guardian Study Reveals Wellness/Benefits Disconnect:

Smaller Companies Value Wellness Programs, but Fall Short on Implementation

Small and Midsize Employers More Likely to Accept One Size Fits All

Benefits Packages, Despite Citing Retention as a Major Challenge



05 Jun, 2007, 01:00 ET from The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America

    NEW YORK, June 5 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report, Benefits and Behavior:
 The Voice of American Business Owners and Benefit Decision Makers Today,
 from The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian) revealed
 gaps between business owner/decision maker beliefs about wellness and
 employee benefits programs and actual business practices.
     Smaller companies trail larger businesses in the implementation of
 wellness programs despite widespread beliefs by employers and benefit
 decision makers at companies of all sizes that wellness programs have
 value.
     -- 82% of small employers, 90% of midsize employers and 99% of large
        employers see value in implementing wellness programs. Yet only 57% of
        the small businesses that value wellness programs have implemented some
        type of plan.  This is compared to greater adoption in larger
        companies: 79% of the midsize businesses and 90% of large businesses
        that value wellness programs have one in place.
     "A large portion of U.S. health spending is due to conditions that are
 controllable," said Susan O'Connor, assistant vice president, Guardian
 Group Medical. "Wellness programs can have a positive long-term impact on a
 company's bottom-line and collectively reduce medical spending by helping
 consumers to change behaviors that have contributed to the cost of
 healthcare. According to the Small Business Administration, small
 businesses employ 50% of the country's private sector workforce. We are
 losing the opportunity to connect a large section of the U.S. workforce to
 cost saving wellness programs if we do not fully engage smaller employers."
     -- According to the Guardian study, among employers that see a value in
        wellness programs, 68% of small employers, 78% of midsize employers and
        69% of large employers want their insurance carriers to play a role in
        helping their company implement wellness and prevention programs to
        help reduce absenteeism and healthcare costs.
     "Wellness programs do not have to be expensive to implement," added
 O'Connor. "It makes sense for most companies of all sizes to offer some
 type of activity that encourages workers to lead healthier lives. Leading
 edge insurance companies embed wellness programs into their insurance plans
 at no additional costs and offer incentives to companies that encourage
 their employees to live healthier lifestyles."
     Another disconnect revealed by the survey was around the issue of
 benefits flexibility.
     -- Larger companies (82%) widely believe that it is important to tailor
        their benefits package to meet the needs of individual employees.
        However, small (59%) and midsize (55%) companies are significantly less
        likely to agree.
 
     -- Small (41%) and midsize (45%) employers are significantly more likely
        to accept the idea of a one size fits all benefits package, compared to
        larger companies (17%). Yet small businesses rate retaining and
        attracting employees as one of their most serious business challenges.
        Retaining and attracting talent was third on the list of top ten
        challenges with a rating of 5.7 on a ten-point scale.
     "In an age of growing workforce diversity, one-size fits all benefits
 packages often make it challenging to retain and attract employees," said
 Steve Toby, director, Guardian Worksite Planning. "Voluntary benefits,
 which are employee paid and often offered at a discounted group price, and
 executive or carve-out benefits that meet the unique needs of key talent,
 can help small businesses to offer a robust benefits package while
 controlling costs. Studies show that employees are willing to assume more
 responsibility for their benefits if they are given more choice and access
 to products and services that meet their distinct needs."
     Healthcare
     When it comes to the cost of healthcare there were no gaps or
 discrepancies. Across the board, respondents believe that controlling
 medical costs is the most serious immediate and long-term business
 challenge.
     -- When asked to rate the seriousness of various business challenges,
        controlling medical costs was rated the biggest challenge by all
        business sizes   -- small businesses gave an average rating of 7.3 on a
        ten-point scale, mid size business averaged 7.6 and large businesses
        averaged an 8.2.
 
     -- Considering the business environment five years from now, controlling
        medical cost remained the top challenge with a slight increase across
        the board: 7.7 for small businesses, 8.2 for mid-size companies and 8.4
        for larger employers.
     An independent New Jersey-based research firm conducted the survey for
 Guardian. 300 telephone interviews among a national sample of employee
 benefits decision makers were conducted from February 20 through March 7,
 2007.
     Guardian is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Group employee
 benefit business. In honor of this milestone the company has issued a
 series of educational surveys and reports to help employees, employers and
 benefit decision makers better understand how they can jumpstart their
 financial lives, improve recruitment, retention and employee satisfaction
 by maximizing the use and power of their workplace coverage. Two reports
 currently available in the series include:
     -- Benefits and Behavior: The Voice of American Business Owners and
        Benefit Decision Makers Today, The report can be found at
        http://www.GuardianBenefits.com
 
     -- Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on Dental, The report can be found at
        http://www.GuardianDental.com.
     About Guardian
     Founded in 1860, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New
 York, NY (Guardian) is one of the largest mutual life insurance companies
 in the United States. As of December 31, 2006, Guardian and its
 subsidiaries had $39.5 billion in assets (on a consolidated statutory
 basis). With more than 5,000 employees and 3,000 financial representatives,
 as well as more than 80 agencies nationwide, Guardian and its subsidiaries
 protect individuals, businesses, and their employees with life, disability,
 health, long-term care, and dental insurance products, and offer 401(k),
 annuities and other financial products and trust services. More information
 about Guardian can be obtained at: http://www.GuardianLife.com.
 
 

SOURCE The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
    NEW YORK, June 5 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report, Benefits and Behavior:
 The Voice of American Business Owners and Benefit Decision Makers Today,
 from The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian) revealed
 gaps between business owner/decision maker beliefs about wellness and
 employee benefits programs and actual business practices.
     Smaller companies trail larger businesses in the implementation of
 wellness programs despite widespread beliefs by employers and benefit
 decision makers at companies of all sizes that wellness programs have
 value.
     -- 82% of small employers, 90% of midsize employers and 99% of large
        employers see value in implementing wellness programs. Yet only 57% of
        the small businesses that value wellness programs have implemented some
        type of plan.  This is compared to greater adoption in larger
        companies: 79% of the midsize businesses and 90% of large businesses
        that value wellness programs have one in place.
     "A large portion of U.S. health spending is due to conditions that are
 controllable," said Susan O'Connor, assistant vice president, Guardian
 Group Medical. "Wellness programs can have a positive long-term impact on a
 company's bottom-line and collectively reduce medical spending by helping
 consumers to change behaviors that have contributed to the cost of
 healthcare. According to the Small Business Administration, small
 businesses employ 50% of the country's private sector workforce. We are
 losing the opportunity to connect a large section of the U.S. workforce to
 cost saving wellness programs if we do not fully engage smaller employers."
     -- According to the Guardian study, among employers that see a value in
        wellness programs, 68% of small employers, 78% of midsize employers and
        69% of large employers want their insurance carriers to play a role in
        helping their company implement wellness and prevention programs to
        help reduce absenteeism and healthcare costs.
     "Wellness programs do not have to be expensive to implement," added
 O'Connor. "It makes sense for most companies of all sizes to offer some
 type of activity that encourages workers to lead healthier lives. Leading
 edge insurance companies embed wellness programs into their insurance plans
 at no additional costs and offer incentives to companies that encourage
 their employees to live healthier lifestyles."
     Another disconnect revealed by the survey was around the issue of
 benefits flexibility.
     -- Larger companies (82%) widely believe that it is important to tailor
        their benefits package to meet the needs of individual employees.
        However, small (59%) and midsize (55%) companies are significantly less
        likely to agree.
 
     -- Small (41%) and midsize (45%) employers are significantly more likely
        to accept the idea of a one size fits all benefits package, compared to
        larger companies (17%). Yet small businesses rate retaining and
        attracting employees as one of their most serious business challenges.
        Retaining and attracting talent was third on the list of top ten
        challenges with a rating of 5.7 on a ten-point scale.
     "In an age of growing workforce diversity, one-size fits all benefits
 packages often make it challenging to retain and attract employees," said
 Steve Toby, director, Guardian Worksite Planning. "Voluntary benefits,
 which are employee paid and often offered at a discounted group price, and
 executive or carve-out benefits that meet the unique needs of key talent,
 can help small businesses to offer a robust benefits package while
 controlling costs. Studies show that employees are willing to assume more
 responsibility for their benefits if they are given more choice and access
 to products and services that meet their distinct needs."
     Healthcare
     When it comes to the cost of healthcare there were no gaps or
 discrepancies. Across the board, respondents believe that controlling
 medical costs is the most serious immediate and long-term business
 challenge.
     -- When asked to rate the seriousness of various business challenges,
        controlling medical costs was rated the biggest challenge by all
        business sizes   -- small businesses gave an average rating of 7.3 on a
        ten-point scale, mid size business averaged 7.6 and large businesses
        averaged an 8.2.
 
     -- Considering the business environment five years from now, controlling
        medical cost remained the top challenge with a slight increase across
        the board: 7.7 for small businesses, 8.2 for mid-size companies and 8.4
        for larger employers.
     An independent New Jersey-based research firm conducted the survey for
 Guardian. 300 telephone interviews among a national sample of employee
 benefits decision makers were conducted from February 20 through March 7,
 2007.
     Guardian is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Group employee
 benefit business. In honor of this milestone the company has issued a
 series of educational surveys and reports to help employees, employers and
 benefit decision makers better understand how they can jumpstart their
 financial lives, improve recruitment, retention and employee satisfaction
 by maximizing the use and power of their workplace coverage. Two reports
 currently available in the series include:
     -- Benefits and Behavior: The Voice of American Business Owners and
        Benefit Decision Makers Today, The report can be found at
        http://www.GuardianBenefits.com
 
     -- Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on Dental, The report can be found at
        http://www.GuardianDental.com.
     About Guardian
     Founded in 1860, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New
 York, NY (Guardian) is one of the largest mutual life insurance companies
 in the United States. As of December 31, 2006, Guardian and its
 subsidiaries had $39.5 billion in assets (on a consolidated statutory
 basis). With more than 5,000 employees and 3,000 financial representatives,
 as well as more than 80 agencies nationwide, Guardian and its subsidiaries
 protect individuals, businesses, and their employees with life, disability,
 health, long-term care, and dental insurance products, and offer 401(k),
 annuities and other financial products and trust services. More information
 about Guardian can be obtained at: http://www.GuardianLife.com.
 
 SOURCE The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America