As employers shift to an employee-driven benefits model, plan participants’ perceived value and satisfaction in their benefits are declining, according to Prudential’s fifth annual “Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond.”

The study addresses many of the emerging trends and issues affecting the benefits industry today but in the next five years.

More than two-fifths (45%) of plan participants indicate their level of benefits has decreased this year, while 50% say they have remained about the same.

Employees are feeling the crunch of fewer benefits but they are paying more. In 2007, 32% of plan participants said their company paid all or most of employee benefits, compared with 26% this year. Fifty-five percent said their company offered a wide range of benefits in 2007, compared with 38% in 2010.

And in a small but significant change over the past three years, 43% of plan participants think their benefits are “highly valuable” this year, compared with 53% three years ago.

Brokers and consultants play a critical role in shaping the changes in the benefits model. Nearly three-quarters of brokers and consultants surveyed by Prudential (70%) say they are recommending, to some extent, that their clients implement consumer-directed health plans. More than two-thirds (68%) indicate they are recommending that their clients share more of the cost of contributory benefits with employees.

Among plan sponsors, giving more financial responsibility to employees through high deductible health plans and health saving accounts was rated as “highly important” by 34% in 2010, up from 21% in 2007.

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