U.S. employers are struggling to keep some expensive, long-cherished benefits in the face of rising health insurance costs and economic uncertainty.

Corporate Synergies Inc., Mount Laurel, N.J., has published figures on that struggle in a summary of results from two surveys conducted with help from the Financial Executive Research Foundation, Washington.

Researchers conducted 11 interviews with financial executives and also conducted an online survey that drew responses from 156 financial executives.

About 38% of the participants said their companies had responded to rising health insurance costs by reducing health benefits, and 21% said they had compensated by reducing or eliminating salary increases or bonuses for employees.

But only 4% of the participants said their companies have shifted to voluntary policies for medical benefits, and just 2% reported eliminating dependent coverage.

About 65% of the employers are trying to hold down costs by offering employees wellness programs.

Only 35% of the executives at employers with wellness programs have reported seeing a return on investments in wellness programs; 42% of those employers said getting a return on investments in wellness took more than two years.

- Allison Bell

Other employer survey coverage from National Underwriter Life & Health: