At least for the next few years, employer-sponsored health plans are not expected to disappear. According to a survey from the Midwest Business Group on Health, employers are expecting business as usual despite the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Though there is much debate over the impact of the law in the medium and long terms.
“Employers still believe that health benefits are vital to attract talented employees and maintain a productive workforce,” says Scott Thompson, president healthcare practice of The Benfield Group, the healthcare market research firm that collaborated on the survey. “This research found that most employers—especially those with more than 200 employees—will not drop employee benefit coverage in the foreseeable future.”
However, the apparent short-term dismissal of the PPACA has not stopped employers from taking other cost-cutting measures.
“They’ll control costs in other ways like implementing CDHPs, basing premium contributions on the number of dependents covered (unit pricing) and reducing benefits to avoid the Cadillac tax. Employers will continue to be active purchasers of health care,” Thompson says.
About 31 percent of employers said that they expect to reduce benefits between 2014 and 2016 in preparation for the 40 percent excise tax on the so-called “Cadillac” plans which goes into effect in 2018. A further 40 percent expect to reduce benefits between 2017 and 2018. While 57 percent of respondents say they offer CDHP options such as health savings accounts and health reimbursement accounts, that number is expected to rise to 62 percent in 2013 up to 71 percent in 2018. Almost 30 percent of respondents plan to make their CDHP offerings the sole plan offered to employees by 2018.
“After 2013, the majority of employers responded that they will be adjusting to the ‘new normal,’ making changes to their benefit design strategy in response to the post-ACA environment. The majority plan to continue to offer benefits.”