I've worked for about half-a-dozen hospitals in different parts of the country and have come to prefer the 403-B type plans to pension plans for the reasons listed below. (My employers' contributions have ranged from 4% to 6% -- added to my own, tax-deferred contributions.)
1. People who move from one institution to another, work part time, or take time off to have children, etc. rarely get a "good deal" from a traditional pension plan. The vesting periods, calculations of benefits, etc. often work against such folks.
2. In most 403-B plans, once the money is in your account, it is yours to keep. You can roll it over into an IRA when you leave. The vesting period only applies to your employer's contributions, not yours.
3. In a pension plan, your future welfare is dependent on the financial health and decision-making of the people running your company. If the company goes bankrupt, there goes your pension. (Remember Enron?) In a 403-B plan, you direct the nature of your investments yourself. If you choose to invest the money conservatively (with smaller growth potential, but fewer risks), you can do that and virtually gurarantee your future. If you choose to invest your retirement money in higher risk investments (higher growth potential, but a larger risk of significant loss), then you can choose that, too.
I've never heard of a hospital that paid for health care benefits after you stopped working for them (other than the legally required tempory coverage to cover you in-between jobs).