As October 1 Nears, Majority Of Employers Have Yet to Communicate ACA-Related Employee Benefits Changes

Although the majority of employers indicate they are concerned the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) may bring about challenges surrounding insurance coverage gaps and costs to employees, a large number of American workers remain unaware, confused, and unprepared for looming changes to their benefits coverage, according to research from Aflac. In fact, the 2013 Open Enrollment Survey found that 69 percent of workers said that their employer has not communicated changes coming to their benefits package due to health care reform despite the October 1 deadline for employers to notify their employees of their coverage options.

Aflac found that employers’ delay in communication thus far regarding potential employee benefits changes may be in part due to their own lack of preparation for the ACA. Only 9 percent of companies indicated that they are very prepared to implement required changes to their business based on the ACA at this time. Although the implications of health care reform are yet to be seen, some employers (41 percent) believe more gaps in coverage will be created and 69 percent believe costs to employees will increase as a result of health care reform.

“At the heart of this issue is the fact that many workers will be blindsided this open enrollment season because we know they already struggle with understanding their insurance policies today, and in covering the high out-of-pocket costs from gaps in their current coverage,” says Michael Zuna, Aflac’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “Over the next few months, these challenges will be exacerbated as employees may be more confused by changes in their policies, and face greater gaps in their health insurance coverage leaving them at risk. With little notice, education, and coverage options to help guide and support them during this season, employers themselves may be at risk of a highly dissatisfied workforce.”

The survey found the following:

• 74 percent of workers sometimes or never understand everything that is covered by their insurance policy today.

• Now, 37 percent of workers think it will be more difficult to understand everything in their health care policy with the changes dictated by the ACA.

• Nearly a third (28 percent) of employees are confused, worried, or simply unsure about the change their employer is making to their health care coverage or benefits options due to the ACA.

• 60 percent of workers have not begun to educate themselves about coming changes to their benefits package due to health care reform.

“The good news is there is an opportunity for employers who take a proactive role in helping employees effectively maneuver this new benefits landscape to make significant gains in worker satisfaction and retention levels,” said Zuna. “Through aggressive education and communication efforts, as well as leveraging ancillary benefits options to offer workers additional options to close growing gaps in their insurance coverage, employers can help their workforce make the right benefits choices and protect their wellbeing.”

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