ACA Has Little Impact on Employer Plan Enrollment

The impact of the Affordable Care Act on employers and employees has not been as great as many feared when the controversial health insurance law was adopted.

Surveys by Global benefits consultant Mercer and the Society for Human Resource Management say few employers have cut hours for full-timers or seen a surge in new enrollments.

“As organizations learned more about the law, they found that their coverage levels were already the same or more than what the law required, minimizing the adjustments that some anticipated employers would need to make when the ACA was created,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs.

The Mercer survey of nearly 600 employers found “virtually no change between 2014 and 2015 in the average percentage of all employees — full-time and part-time — enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans.”

Few of the newly eligible workers opted in to employer plans during the open-enrollment period that concluded several weeks ago. While eligibility across the surveyed employers rose one point to 88 percent of their workforce due to the 30-hour rule, Mercer reported the average percentage of eligible employees who actually enrolled dropped from 84 to 83 percent.

In the hospitality sector, the industry most affected by the federal rules requiring employers to extend benefit to all employees working 30 hours a week, eligibility rose from 57 to 60 percent. But enrollment increased by less  than one point, to 34 percent.

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Tracy Watts, a senior partner and leader for health reform at Mercer, said,  “While some did see increases, for the most part it seems the newly eligible either had coverage through a parent’s or spouse’s plan or through Medicaid — or are continuing to go bare.”

Of the 27 percent of  employers who took some action to reduce eligibility, most limited hours or cut back employees. Only 2 percent actually reduced their headcount.

The Society for Human Resource Management survey found similar results regarding changes to working hours. One in five employers have reduced hours or limited hours for part-timers. Three percent have done that for full-timers. Far fewer have reduced headcount or plan to in order to limit enrollment.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

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