ACA Has Little Impact on Employer Plan Enrollment

Mar 24, 2015
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

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.

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.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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