Small U.S. employers are about as interested in health benefits as larger employers, but they are less interested in other types of benefits.

Researchers at the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, Los Angeles, a foundation funded mainly by an affiliate of AEGON N.V., The Hague, Netherlands, has reported that finding in a report based on a telephone survey of 601 U.S. employers conducted in late 2009 and early 2010.

The Transamerica Center research defined companies with 10 to 499 employees as small and companies with 500 or more employees as large.

All survey participants at large companies and 98% of the participants at small companies said health insurance is a very or somewhat important to offer.

The difference was much greater for disability insurance and life insurance.

At large companies, 97% said offering life insurance is important, and 95% of the survey participants said offering disability insurance is important.

At small companies, 77% said offering life insurance is important, and 74% said offering disability insurance is important.

The large-company participants were slightly likely than they were in 2008-2009 to call disability insurance, life insurance and 401(k) plans important benefits to offer. But the percentage of large-company participants who said a defined benefit pension plan is an important benefit to offer increased to 72%, from 65%.

At small companies, the percentage of participants who said defined benefit pension benefits are important fell to 57%, from 63%. But the percentage who called disability insurance, life insurance and 401(k) plan benefits increased by 1 to 2 percentage points in each category, and the percentage who called offering long term care insurance important increased to 36%, from 33%.

Other survey findings:

- Only 13% of the participants predicted that their company’s financial situation would get worse in the next 12 months, down from 29% a year earlier.

- The percentage of employers with an automatic defined contribution retirement plan enrollment program that use diversified investment funds as the default investment option fell to 40%, down from 53% in 2008-2009, and the percentage that use a money market fund or stable-value fund as the default option increased to 33%, from 12%.