Kibble & Prentice Survey Identifies Regional Employee Benefit Trends

October 14, 2002

In an annual survey of more than 236 Puget Sound area companies, Kibble & Prentice of Seattle, Wash., has identified several employee benefit regional trends. Among the findings is that employers of all sizes are increasingly managing costs through premium sharing and benefit reductions. Compared with the 2001 survey, many more companies are increasing deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance levels, as well as expecting employees to share a higher percentage of the premium cost.

Between 22 and 31 percent of companies surveyed (depending on market sector) are planning to either reduce their contributions to employee premiums, or reduce overall employee benefits in 2002. This is in stark contrast to 2001 results, when only 10-12 percent of companies contemplated such reductions.

This year’s survey also identified one of the biggest challenges facing companies regarding employee benefits: the differing needs of employees, reflecting the perceived competition for benefit dollars by singles and families. Costs continued to be a major challenge, with between 92 and 98 percent of companies identifying the cost of benefits as a problem.

Dale Cowles, president of Kibble & Prentice and manager of the Employee Benefits division, said, “Cost containment has supplanted employee retention as the key driver of employee benefit packages, which is no surprise in our current economic environment. Our survey helps employers figure out industry standards, and they can use the results to guide their cost containment and employee satisfaction strategies. Being able to keep such close tabs on industry-specific trends is one more way we provide personal, informed service to middle market companies, in the Pacific Northwest region.”

The survey provides a snapshot of the employee benefits being offered in a variety of Pacific Northwest industries—what types of benefits, what they are costing employers, and how that compares to previous levels. The survey results indicate companies in this region are relatively consistent in their benefit packages. Most companies continue to provide a competitive plan, including medical, dental, vision, Section 125, life insurance, long-term disability insurance, and 401(k) plans.

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