In February 2008, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (“EBRI”) released a summary of its December 2007 policy forum which sought to assess reports that U.S. employment-based health benefits system was declining. The policy forum attendees heard presentations from 12 experts on health care, behavioral finance, and consumer financial information.

According to the summary, representatives of large employers told the policy forum that they want to continue to play a role in providing health benefits for their employees. Interestingly, a survey by Towers Perrin, which involved 500 large employers representative of the Fortune 1000, found that 60% of the respondents expect health care reform, but not immediately; 75% of those who anticipate reform do not expect it within the next four years, and 40% said reform is still at least 10 years away or may never happen. According to EBRI President Dallas Salisbury, “surveys by EBRI and other organizations have consistently shown strong employer support for offering benefits.”

For smaller employers (fewer than 200 employees), the summary indicated that the percentage of employers that offer benefits dropped from 68% in 2000 to 59% in 2007. However, over the longer term 1996-2007, the summary noted that the percentage of employers in this group that offered benefits remained constant at 59%. Using the longer period, Paul Fronstin, the director of the EBRI Health Research and Education Program, found a picture of stability in terms of workers being eligible for benefits, percentage of workers who have coverage, the share of premiums paid by workers, and the share of out-of- pocket costs paid by workers.