Employees Favor Employer Health Plans (Even as Some Employers May Dump Them)

But would employers be lured to exchanges if they were less costly than employer-sponsored plans?

Most U.S. workers are satisfied with employer-provided health coverage, according to a new survey by the Washington, D.C.-based National Business Group on Health.

The report, “Perceptions of Health Benefits in a Recovering Economy: A Survey of Employees,” was conducted from late May through early June. A total of 1,545 employees at organizations with 2,000 or more employees responded. Respondents were between the ages of 22 and 69 and receive their health care benefits through their employer or union.

Higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs for health care benefits rule the roost, as most covered employees realize. But the survey finds that roughly one in three employees are not confident in their ability to shop for health insurance on their own.

More than half are not confident they can purchase the same or better quality insurance on their own. Reports coming out after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act do not bode well for employees, the reports suggesting they may be forced to buy insurance in health insurance exchanges.

About one in 10 employers in the United States say they’ll drop health coverage for employees in the next few years as the major provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act take effect. And more indicate they may do so over time, a survey by consulting company Deloitte finds, an article in BenefitsPro reported this week.

A health insurance exchange is an online marketplace set up under the health reform law wherein individuals and small businesses can shop for health plans from private insurance companies. Each state’s exchange is set to offer coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014. People may seek federal financial assistance when they apply.

There is also a third option tickling some fancies: As recapped in an article published July 19 on LifeHealthPro.com, an Employee Benefit Research Institute brief suggests the PPACA exchange system could lead to a return to an employer-sponsored defined contribution health benefits system.

Under this system, employers would give a set amount of cash to employees, the funds used by the employees to buy guaranteed-issue, mostly community-rated coverage through the exchanges.

Nearly two thirds of workers have experienced higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs, according to the survey. The new law mandates that, starting in 2014, any company with 50 or more full-time employees has to provide coverage or pay a penalty.

There have been conflicting reports over how many employers will drop coverage for employees. Deloitte’s report predicts a lesser impact than some. Last year, consulting firm McKinsey & Co. drew fire from when it stated 30% of respondents will “definitely” or “probably” stop offering employer-sponsored health insurance after 2014. According to the Deloitte survey, 9% of companies expect to stop offering insurance in the next one to three years.

But U.S. workers’ satisfaction levels with employer-provided health care coverage has risen or remained the same compared to three years ago, according to a survey of employees conducted by the NBGH, a non-profit association of nearly 350 large employers.

The survey found that nearly two in three workers (63%) are very satisfied with health coverage provided by their employer or union. Roughly one-third (35%) are more satisfied with their coverage compared to three years ago, the survey found.

The survey also found that 87% of employees rate health benefits as very important when making a decision about accepting a new job or remaining with their employer. Fewer than 8 in 10 (78%) rate retirement benefits as very important, which is up sharply from 63% in 2007.

Only 12% are less satisfied; the remaining 53% say their satisfaction level has remained the same.

Thirty-nine percent of employees rank biometric screenings as a very important health benefit program, followed by exercise programs (31%) and on-site fitness centers (31%). Less healthy respondents give a higher rating to programs in stress management, weight loss, and coaching, programs,

However, most employees (68%) do not believe employees should be required to participate in a wellness program to qualify for health insurance. And even more (71%) don’t think employers should charge employees more for health coverage if they don’t meet specific health goals, the report finds.

“Employers continue to make significant investments in the health of their employees, even though the slow recovery has left many employers and the economy struggling,” states NBDH President and CEO Helen Darling. “In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the health care reform law and a future that will include health exchanges where individuals can shop for and buy insurance, some employers will be carefully weighing their options.”

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Originally published on LifeHealthPro. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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