Majority Of Employees Will See Changes During 2014 Open Enrollment Season

The majority of employees will likely see a number of changes to their employer-sponsored health benefits during the 2014 open enrollment season, according to recent research from consultant Aon Hewitt. These changes are being driven by rising health costs and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Therefore, Aon Hewitt advises workers who plan to automatically default into the same health plan in which they were enrolled in 2013 would be wise to rethink that strategy.

Aon Hewitt noted that some notable changes employees may see include:

  • 1. Higher costs. Most employers plan to subsidize employees’ health coverage at the same percentage rate as last year, Aon Hewitt found. However, as health care costs increase overall, the amount of money employees will need to contribute out of their paychecks is continuing to climb. In addition, almost one in five employers has increased surcharges for adult dependents with access to coverage elsewhere.
  • 2. More options. All Americans are required to have health care coverage beginning in 2014. Some employees—particularly those who are not offered health coverage through their employer—may wish to purchase individual coverage through the new state and federal marketplaces, Aon Hewitt noted.
  • 3. CDHPs. Consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) continue to rise in popularity and have surpassed HMOs as the second most offered plans by employers. And, a growing number of employers are offering CDHPs as the only plan option. While just 10 percent of companies do so today, the survey found that another 44 percent are considering it in the next three to five years.
  • 4. Health education. With employers facing the impacts of rising health care costs and declining health of the population, employees can expect to see more employers offering programs that encourage them to take a more active role in managing their health. For example, 75 percent of employers offer health risk questionnaires (HRQs) and 71 percent offer biometric screenings such as blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • 5. Incentives. Workers also can expect to see an increasing number of employers providing an incentive—either through a reward or a penalty—related to completion of programs such as HRQs and biometric screenings. Eighty-three percent of employers have such an incentive in place now, according to Aon Hewitt.
  • 6. Eligibility rules. Employers may be making changes to rules that determine which employees are eligible for health coverage, particularly as they evaluate requirements of the employer mandate provision of ACA (which was delayed until 2015). In addition, the recent Supreme Court decision that resulted in federal recognition of same-sex marriages may mean more dependents will now be eligible for benefits coverage.

“Employees typically spend very little time choosing their health benefits each year,” said Craig Rosenberg, Aon Hewitt’s health and welfare benefits administration practice leader. “This year, that can be a risky — and potentially costly — strategy. In some cases, not making an active decision during enrollment means employees could get defaulted into a health care plan that doesn’t meet their needs — or even worse — leaves them and their families with no coverage at all. It’s up to employees to read the fine print and take an active role in understanding if and how these changes may impact them.”

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