Massachusetts Employer Survey

2016 Massachusetts Employer Survey

Research brief

The Benefits Divide: Workers at Lower-Wage Firms and Employer-Sponsored Insurance, released in August 2017, focuses specifically on health insurance coverage and health care affordability among workers at lower-wage firms.

The Benefits Divide: Workers at Lower-Wage Firms and Employer-Sponsored Insurance in Massachusetts

The majority of Massachusetts residents obtain health insurance through their own or a family member’s employer. Employer-sponsored insurance shapes the health insurance markets in the state and impacts the demand for the state’s public insurance programs, including MassHealth.

The Massachusetts Employer Survey, an ongoing health insurance survey of employers, tracks and monitors employer health insurance offerings, employee take-up rates, cost-sharing, plan characteristics, and employer decision making. It was conducted on a bi-annual basis from 2001 through 2009; then in 2010, 2011 and 2014.

In 2016, the survey was redesigned to better reflect changes in the health insurance markets and changing state priorities for health care reform. The survey was conducted during the summer and fall of 2016. The final report, field report, databook, and survey questionnaire were released in March 2017.


Key Findings


      • Sixty-five percent of Massachusetts employers offered health insurance, which was higher than the national offer rate of 56%, and offer rates were lowest among firms with 3 to 9 employees at 48%.


      • Seventy-four percent of Massachusetts employees who were eligible for their employer’s health plans chose to enroll in a plan (take-up rate), which was slightly lower than the national take-up rate of 79%.


      • Large firms were twice as likely as small firms to offer savings options with high deductible health plans (HDHPs) (60% vs. 31%). However, enrollment in savings options with HDHPs was higher among employees working at small firms than large firms (30% vs. 19%).


  • When asked about strategies to control costs, employers cited “increased copayment and deductibles” as both a strategy that they found effective (47%) and a strategy that was enacted within the past year (40%). Few employers cited “increasing the employee contribution to premiums” as an effective strategy (8%) and it was not often enacted within the past year (6%).


 2016 Employer Offer Rates by Firm Size

Prior Employer Health Insurance Surveys

2014 Massachusetts Employer Health Insurance Survey (MES)


2011 Massachusetts Employer Health Insurance Survey (MES)


2010 Massachusetts Employer Health Insurance Survey (MES)