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How lowering business costs affects employee benefits

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Employers in the United States reduced major medical plan options and shifted costs to employees in 2013 as they continued to adapt to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the increasing cost of health care, according to the 2014 Aflac WorkForces Report (AWR) released last week by voluntary insurance provider, Aflac.

The study identified businesses’ desire to control the bottom line as a “likely driver of benefits changes in 2013.” Almost half (49 percent) of employers agreed that controlling costs is the top business issue facing companies today, up from 28 percent from 2011.

Other areas were businesses looked to reduce costs were:

  • 32 percent eliminated or delayed raises
  • 22 percent eliminated or cut back on benefits
  • 21 percent changed some full-time workers to part-time workers
  • And 14 percent reduced the number of major medical plan options

“For four consecutive years, we have witnessed this growing trend and can foresee the possible ramifications for the U.S. workforce,” said Teresa White, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Aflac Columbus.

The Aflac report also found that more than 56 percent of the companies increased employees’ copayments and/or employees’ share of premiums in 2013 and this trend shows no signs of slowing: Nearly 6 out of 10 employers said they intend to do the same in 2014.

These changes to insurance plans and other benefits could mean that American workers are unprepared for the impact this may have on their finances. However, the study also found that when employees were asked about voluntary benefits:

  • 76 percent say they’re at least somewhat likely to purchase additional benefits if offered to them
  • 48 percent agree they’re more knowledgeable about voluntary benefits today than last year
  • 63 percent see a growing need for voluntary benefits today compared to past years
  • 88 percent of workers consider voluntary benefits to be an important part of a comprehensive benefits program

This may present opportunities for insurers to offer new products that adapt to the workers’ financial conditions.

The study, conducted by Research Now, captured the responses from 1,856 benefits decision-makers and 5,209 employees across the U.S. from January 7 to January 23, 2014.

Click here to view the full 2014 Aflac WorkForces Report.