BY KATHRYN MAYER
Though it’s the talk — and concern — of companies nationwide (and has been for years, now), most employers still haven’t gotten around to measuring the cost impact of Obamacare.
That’s the significant finding from a new survey of more than 1,000 employers from broker Willis.
Only 37 percent of respondents said they’ve identified the cost impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on their health plans in 2014. While that’s more than the 28 percent of respondents who said they identified the costs in last year’s survey, “it demonstrates that for many organizations, determining an accurate assessment of these figures is still a challenge,” Willis said.
Those that have measured the expected impact say the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be increasing their costs. More than half (54 percent) noted a cost increase between 0 percent and 5 percent while 22 percent estimated their increase in the 5 to 10 percent range.
“Responding to the mandates and changes required by health care reform has been an evolving challenge for employers since the law’s implementation,” said Jay Kirschbaum, practice leader of the Willis Human Capital Practice’s national legal and research group.
And without actively figuring out how much compliance is going to cost, employers will be left in the dark about how to best adjust benefit strategies.
“Without that knowledge, employers may not be able to accurately assess the impact and determine the optimal way to proceed with their plans,” Kirschbaum said.
Obamacare has been affecting employers in other ways, too: For example, 14 percent of respondents said they’ve already eliminated coverage for part-time employees in 2014, and another 8 percent plan to do so moving forward.
Still, the survey found that most employers remain committed to offering benefits, as well as trying to ease cost fears for their employees. Though rising health costs were identified as concerning — 74 percent said their health plan costs increased in 2014 — they said cost shifting is only part of the solution to rising costs. The majority of respondents experienced an increase in their health plan costs from 2013 to 2014, but of those who reported a cost increase, almost a quarter kept employee contributions the same.