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Mercer: Employers Fear PPACA High-Cost Plan Tax

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U.S. employers with more than 50 workers seem to be much more concerned about a federal tax on expensive health benefits packages than they are about the idea of having to provide coverage for all full-time employers.

Consultants at Mercer, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., New York (NYSE:MMC), have published figures that may support that conclusion in a summary of results from a recent survey of 2,844 public and private U.S. employers with 10 or more employees.

One major provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) would impose a 40% excise tax, or “Cadillac plan tax,” on health benefits packages with values that exceed maximum levels specified in PPACA.

Another provision would require employers to make coverage available to all employees that work 30 hours per week.

Mercer found that about 38% of the employers with 50 or more employees said they view the Cadillac plan tax as a significant or very significant concern; only 22% said they view the coverage mandate for workers working more than 30 hours per week as a significant or very significant concern.

About 61% of the participants at employers with more than 50 workers said they believe the employers could end up paying the Cadillac plan tax or had no opinion about that topic.

Survey participants reported the overall average cost of health benefits has increased to $10,146 per employee this year, up 6.1% from the 2010 average.

The participants expect the rate of increase to fall to 5.7% in 2012.

The percentage of participating employers with 500 or more employees offering high-deductible plans along with health savings accounts or health reimbursement arrangements has increased to 32%, from 23% in 2010.

At employers with 10 to 499 employees, the health account plan penetration rate increased to 20%, from 16%.

About 13% of covered employees are now in health account plans, Mercer says.