Survey: Number of businesses planning to improve health benefits jumps three-fold since March

The number of companies planning to bolster health benefits for their employees jumped more than three-fold over the past seven months, according to a survey released Monday.

Twenty-one percent of businesses say they'll increase their per-worker health benefits spending in the undefined future — up from 6 percent in March, according to the poll, conducted by Grant Thornton LLP, a Chicago-based consulting firm.

Meanwhile, the number of businesses planning health benefit cuts has remained almost constant over the same span. Thirty percent of respondents said health benefits are on the chopping block, up from 29 percent in March.  

Forty-nine percent said health benefits will remain the same — down from 66 percent in March. 

Pollsters also found a large majority of companies (84 percent) consider employee benefits, including healthcare and pensions, their single greatest cost concern — up from 68 percent six months earlier. 

The findings arrive as Republicans are blaming the new health reform law, enacted in March, for forcing companies to drop employee health coverage — a claim disputed by supporters of the reforms. 

The figures are based on a survey of 508 chief financial officers and senior comptrollers conducted between Oct. 5 and Oct. 15.