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Employers move beyond 'wait and see' approach to health care

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With President Obama’s re-election cementing health care reform, employers are now (again) considering what to do about their health care offerings. And by the looks of it, dropping health coverage for employees isn’t part of the plan.

According to a post-election survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, most employers (84 percent) will continue to provide health care coverage for full-time employees after the exchanges open in 2014.

See also: Health exchange bidding comes alive

That’s up from 77 percent of employers who said the same about keeping benefits following the Supreme Court’s ruling in June.

The main reason employers plan to provide coverage for employees is to maintain/increase employee satisfaction and loyalty (40 percent). That’s followed by retaining current employees (24 percent) and part of a collective bargaining agreement (21 percent).

Obama’s re-election ended employers’ wait-and-see approach in terms of health care planning. Many were waiting first for the Supreme Court ruling on health reform’s constitutionality, then for the presidential and congressional elections.

Most employers — 77 percent — say they are well along in terms of keeping current with PPACA provisions, with 60 percent stating they are either “very” or “extremely” far along in terms of preparing for future PPACA provisions.

Aside from the organization’s health care focus shifting to legislative compliance (57 percent), most employers are shifting their attention to wellness (52 percent), value-based health care (40 percent) and consumer-driven health plans (26 percent).

Earlier research from IFEBP found that seven in 10 U.S. employers offer wellness programs.

When the exchanges are put into effect in 2014, 25 percent of respondents say they’re likely to direct only some employees to the exchanges while continuing to provide coverage for others as opposed to dropping coverage for all employees.

“One can assume that the 63 percent of organizations that will most likely provide a subsidy to those employees that were shifted to the exchanges are sensitive to promoting employee loyalty,” says Julie Stich, the International Foundation’s director of research.

Additionally, the survey found 11 percent of employers plan to reduce their work force due to overall costs directly associated with health reform, while another 5 percent will reduce hiring to stay under 50-employee PPACA threshold. About half of employers say they have no plans to add or reduce the workforce.


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