Employers are already making changes to health benefits in anticipation of new Obamacare requirements, including shifting employees to plans with higher deductibles and higher cost sharing, a new survey found.
At the same time, relatively few employers are cutting back on work hours to keep employees from qualifying for benefits, results showed.
The increased administrative burden the Affordable Care Act imposes, however, had 78 percent of employers reporting “significant” or “very significant” concerns, according to the new report from New York-based consulting firm Mercer, which surveyed roughly 700 employers at the end of January.
Sixty-two percent of employers indicated a similar level of anxiety about paying the excise tax on high-cost health plans.
“The excise tax continues to be a huge concern to employers,” said Tracy Watts, head of the health care reform team at Mercer. “The last time that we looked at the excise tax, almost half of employers had plans that would hit the excise tax in 2018. Last summer, one-third of employers said they were already making changes in 2014 in anticipation of the excise tax in 2018.”
Some of the changes those companies are making include switching employees to consumer-directed health plans and getting rid of those high-cost plans altogether, Watts said. Consumer-directed health plans tend to be less expensive up-front and put more onus on the employee to manage health costs by creating spending accounts and raising deductibles.
Of surprisingly less importance to employers is the 30-hour work requirement. The Affordable Care Act requires employers to offer health benefits to all employees who work 30 or more hours per week.
A number of employers have made a fuss about the 30-hour work requirement, arguing that it’s not technically full-time and that it will force them to reduce hours in order to keep people from qualifying for health coverage. Some, including Target, Trader Joe’s, and United Parcel Service, have already garnered heavy media coverage after making changes because of the health law’s expansion of coverage.
But, according to Mercer’s findings, 76 percent of employers don’t plan to make any changes to their workforce due to the 30-hour work requirement. Only 10 percent have reduced or will reduce the number of employees working 30 hours or more, and 14 percent indicated that they have or will make other changes to deal with the bump in the number of employees who qualify for health benefits.
What We're Following See More »
Following their meeting, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, briefly addressed the media, with Peña Nieto subtly rebuking Trump's rhetoric. While he spoke respectfully about Trump, Peña Nieto did not back down, saying that free trade has proved effective and that illegal immigration into America from the south has decreased over the last ten years while the flow of people and drugs into Mexico has increased. Additionally, he stressed that Mexicans in America are "honest" and "deserve respect." Trump responded, calling some Mexicans "tremendous people" while saying others are "beyond reproach." Trump laid out five important issues, including the end of illegal immigration and the ability for either country to build a wall or border. However, Trump said he did not discuss who would pay for the wall.
A divided Supreme Court "refused Wednesday to reinstate North Carolina’s voter identification requirement and keep just 10 days of early in-person voting. The court rejected a request by Gov. Pat McCrory and other state officials to delay a lower court ruling that found the state law was tainted by racial discrimination."
"Police say a woman walked into U.S. Rep. Danny Davis' office on Chicago's West Side, drank out of a bottle of hand sanitizer, poured the sanitizer over herself and set herself on fire with a lighter." The Democrat wasn't in the office at the time.
"The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday awarded 44 states, four tribes and the District of Columbia a combined $53 million in grants to expand access to treatment for opioid use disorders and ultimately aimed at reducing the number of opioid-related deaths." But HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and drug czar Michael Botticelli both called on Congress to approve the $1.1 billion Obama has requested to fight the opioid crisis.