One of the frequently heard criticisms of the Affordable Care Act is that it will lead employers to stop offering health care coverage. This will force their employees to buy insurance on their own.
Many employers worried that the ACA's new rules would make it more difficult to provide health benefits. And some commentators argued that businesses - especially those with fewer than 50 employees that are not bound by many of the ACA's requirements - would be enticed to stop offering health insurance and instead direct consumers to the new insurance exchanges.
It is now clear, as the ACA enters its second year, that these fears have not been realized. What we're seeing in the Philadelphia region matches the national trend: employers continue to invest in providing health benefits to employees.
As a survey reported by BenefitsPro.com, an online news source for benefit professionals explained, "…just 4 percent said they (employers) probably wouldn't continue to offer health insurance. More than two-thirds (68 percent) strongly agreed that they'll keep offering health coverage, and another 28 percent indicated they most likely would."
As the economy and the job market improve, many employers have become concerned that other companies may poach their valued staffers. That competition for talent is one reason we are finding that many employers continue to offer coverage, even though ACA rules do not yet mandate it. Offering the benefit of quality health insurance can be a big help in retaining top talent.
The survey also found that smaller employers are still concerned about the cost of coverage. Asked to rank their health insurance-related worries for the year ahead, 77% sited "keeping health care costs under control." That helps explain another trend we have seen: more small employers are seeking creative ways to lower the cost of health benefits. This often leads to adding health spending accounts, often as part of High Deductible Health Plans, which provide employees with a full range of coverage options, and give employers a way to share some of the cost with employees.
Inarguably, the ACA has brought the most sweeping change to health care coverage since Medicare was introduced in the sixties, and many employers have found it challenging to understand and navigate this new health care environment. Still, at least so far, it has not brought destruction to employer-based coverage as some critics had warned.
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