Despite Delayed Key Provision, Health Care Reform Triggers Benefits Action Among Employers

Originally posted March 03, 2014 on http://www.voluntary.com

Employers report impact on benefits funding, opening opportunity for voluntary benefits

NEWARK, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–With Affordable Care Act deadlines imminent in 2014 and 2015, employers are reporting the increased impact of health care reform on various aspects of employee benefits. According to Health Care Reform: Full Steam Ahead, the first in a series of five research briefs based on The Prudential Insurance Company of America’s (Prudential’s) Eighth Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond, nearly half (49%) of employers report they are extremely or very likely to make a high-deductible health plan their only health insurance option.

“The Affordable Care Act could very well usher in a new era for and emphasis on voluntary benefits. More employers are utilizing them for recruiting and retaining talent and employees increasingly view them as a cost-effective way to protect their families’ financial futures.”

“Although employers anticipate scaling back benefit offerings due to cost considerations, there’s great opportunity for them to offer voluntary benefits in order to continue providing attractive benefits to their employees,” said Vishal Jain, vice president, Strategy, Planning and Business Insights, Prudential Group Insurance. “The Affordable Care Act could very well usher in a new era for and emphasis on voluntary benefits. More employers are utilizing them for recruiting and retaining talent and employees increasingly view them as a cost-effective way to protect their families’ financial futures.”

According to the report, 73% of employers say the law is having an impact on benefits service and support and 69% report there is an impact on benefits communications. “With a shifting benefits landscape, carriers are now focused on being a trusted resource for employers while offering a full spectrum of services such as enrollment communications, benefits education, record keeping, and administrative services,” Jain said.

In addition to highlighting the law’s potential impact on voluntary benefits, health insurance exchanges central to the legislation are top of mind for employees surveyed. Key findings include:

Employees are increasingly confident more Americans will be covered under the Affordable Care Act (43%, up 7 percentage points from 2012). An expanding number feel fewer employers will offer health insurance (44%, a 13 percentage point increase from 2012), and 38% of those employees believe their employer will drop coverage.

Most employees report having neither a favorable nor unfavorable opinion toward both public and private exchanges.

About one-third of employees report they have heard of but know little about public or private exchanges while one-in-five say they have never heard of either before the survey.

“As employers evaluate the implications of public and private exchanges, the importance of their partnerships with carriers will continue to grow. Employers will look for carriers that provide value, make benefits administration easier, help employees make better benefit decisions, and provide excellent customer service,” said Jain. “We’re poised to support our customers with innovative and cost-effective benefit solutions, coupled with a full array of services designed to improve employees’ financial wellness.”