Employers firm up health insurance benefit plans for 2014
■ As more aspects of the ACA take effect, physicians can look forward to most patients not having to change health plans because of employer actions.
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More employers will continue offering insurance to their workers rather than dropping it as a benefit and make them seek out individual plans on state-level health insurance exchanges as fuller implementation of the Affordable Care Act nears.
That means physicians can expect that most of their patients will maintain the same health insurance coverage in the near future that they do now, according to an employee benefits survey.
The International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans reported in May that only about 10% of employers were still taking a “wait-and-see approach” regarding how the ACA will play out. That’s a change from 2012, when about 30% were in the wait-and-see mode. Last year, nearly half of employers said they would offer coverage; in 2013, that figure rose to nearly 70%.
A smaller percentage of employers said they “definitely won’t” offer coverage. That figure dropped from about 1% in 2012 to 0.5% in 2013. Those that said they would be “very unlikely” to offer such coverage in 2012 decreased from 1.4% in 2012 to 0.5% in 2013.
Small businesses stick with coverage
Even small employers said they would continue coverage. About 60% of employers with fewer than 51 workers plan to offer insurance in 2014, compared with nearly 70% of larger employers. An additional 23.7% of small employers said they very likely would offer insurance, compared with 25.2% of large employers. Companies with at least 50 employees must offer some form of health insurance or face a penalty.
“The decisions were made, the November  election is over, the balance of power is not changing, and that gave employers the sense that the law is going to stay in place,” said Julie Stich, director of research for the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans. “And they have to figure out what that means, and they have decided to keep coverage.”
Participants in the survey were single employer plans in the databases of the International Foundation and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefits Specialists. Responses came from about 960 human resources and benefits professional and industry experts.
The reason that employers are continuing to offer insurance is because it’s a great tool to retain and attract top talent, said Katy Votava, PhD, president of Goodcare, a health care services and financial consulting firm.
“We deal with a lot of small and medium-sized companies, and they really want to do good for their employees because they want to be competitive,” she said. “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay, and if [employers] want to stay in business they have to value their employees, and that means they have to take care of them.”