Benefits advisors who serve small and midsize U.S. employers are still waiting for many of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) effect shoes to drop, but some of the shoes have landed.

Analysts at United Benefit Advisors (UBA), a group that serves 2,000 independent benefits advisors, has explored the actual and possible effects of PPACA in a summary of results from a recent survey of 9,950 employers with 16,467 health plans.

The employers all had connections with UBA before they started the survey. Many of the employers in the sample have fewer than 100 employees.

UBA analysts found, for example, that premiums for participating plans increased just 5.6 percent in 2014 — to about $9,500 per employee for all plan types. The 2014 increase was only slightly higher than the 2013 average increase — 5.5 percent.

Out-of-pocket maximums for 2014 increased to about $1,900, just 6 percent higher than the average deductible in 2013.

See also: UBA: Health Account Plan Savings Not So Great.

But some things have changed. To learn what they are, read on.

Calendar

1. Calendars have changed

Because of concerns, the number of participating employers with plan years starting Dec. 1, rather than Jan. 1, seems to have quintupled, UBA analysts say. More than one-quarter of the participating employers now have a Dec. 1 plan renewal date.

Employers made that change to avoid immediately having to comply with all of the PPACA rules that were supposed to take effect Jan. 1.

See also: Early renewals help businesses delay PPACA effects.

Confusion

2. PPACA confusion seems to have contributed to a drop in use of wellness programs

The drafters of PPACA wanted to encourage use of wellness programs, but federal regulatory actions against some wellness programs, PPACA-related restrictions on wellness program use and employers’ need to focus on implementing PPACA seems to have had the opposite effect.

Only 8 percent of employers with fewer than 25 employees offered wellness programs in 2014, down from 9.3 percent in 2013.

UBA analysts found similar decreases in wellness program sponsorship in employer size categories below than 500-to-999 and 1,000-and-over categories.

See also: Employers clash with administration over wellness

Time clock

3. Employers have changed their waiting period rules

PPACA will limit group coverage waiting periods to no more than 90 days.

The number of plans moving to that waiting period definition has increased 52 percent, and the number with longer waiting periods has dropped 64 percent, UBA analysts report.

See also: Feds complete PPACA waiting period regs.