Health Reform Will Impact This Year’s Benefits Communication Strategy

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is impacting how employers are creating this year’s benefits communication strategies, according to recent research from the nonprofit National Business Coalition on Health and Benz Communications. The study found that 73 percent of employers report that the ACA will have the biggest impact on their benefits communication strategy in the year ahead.

However, the 2014 Inside Benefits Communication Survey found that plan design strategy seems to maintain the status quo with 39.4 percent saying they are maintaining current benefit plans and coverage levels, without increasing employee costs—like deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. Slightly more than 32 percent indicated they will also maintain current benefit and coverage levels, but increase employee costs.

“However employers choose to respond to the administrative and cost burdens of the ACA, it’s imperative that they frame those actions in a way that clearly communicates to employees the high value of their benefit plans,” said Jennifer Benz, founder and CEO of Benz Communications. “Blaming or shaming the law as the reason for making—or not making—benefit changes doesn’t move the needle in helping employees make informed decisions about choosing plans, getting appropriate care, managing their health or controlling health expenses. As one of the last remaining sources for reliable and trusted health information, employers have everything to gain—and nothing to lose—in using ACA as a conversation starter to improve employees’ understanding and perceived value of their benefits.”

Cadillac tax. When asked how their company is preparing to comply with the ACA “Cadillac tax” in 2018 (a 40 percent excise tax on employer plans valued at more than $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage), 26 percent responded that they are maintaining current benefit plans and coverage levels without increasing employee costs. In addition, almost 20 percent said they are maintaining levels, but increasing employee costs, and 15 percent are reducing benefit plans and coverage levels while increasing employee costs.

Private exchanges. The survey also found that most employers are not embracing private exchanges. More than half (55 percent) of employers indicate they will “never” stop sponsoring employee health plans in favor of giving employees money to buy coverage through a private exchange. Just 32 percent said they are considering moving to a private exchange within three to five years and 8 percent are considering such a move within the next three years. Only 5 percent say they already use a private exchange to provide employees’ health benefits.

For more information, visit http://www.nbch.org/ibcsurvey.

For more information, visit http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-aca21.html.

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