Vast Majority Of Large Employers Offered Health Benefits To Workers

The vast majority (94 percent) of employers with 100 or more employees offered health benefits to at least some of their workers in 2014, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust’s (HRET) 2014 Employer Health Benefits Survey. Kaiser/HRET noted that this is good news since starting in 2015 employers with 100 or more full-time equivalent workers could face penalties under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) if they do not offer affordable health coverage to employees. Employers with 50 to 99 employees will face these penalties in 2016.

Among employers with fewer than 50 workers, 52 percent offered health benefits. Since most employers nationally are small, this group drives the overall offer rate for employers, which stands at 55 percent this year, similar to the 57 percent recorded last year, Kaiser/HRET found. Firms that did not offer health benefits to their workers most often cited cost-related reasons, though one in 10 cited the coverage available to workers through the ACA insurance exchanges as a factor.

Waiting periods. The ACA limits waiting periods to enroll in health coverage to no more than 90 days. The survey found that 23 percent of large firms and 10 percent of small firms with a waiting period decreased the length of their waiting period last year. The average length of waiting periods for covered workers who face a waiting period decreased from 2.3 months in 2013 to 2.1 months in 2014.

Grandfathered health plans. The ACA exempts grandfathered health plans from a number of provisions, such as the requirements to cover preventive benefits without cost sharing. Plans lose their grandfathered status if they make significant changes to reduce benefits or raise workers’ costs. According to Kaiser/HRET, the number of firms with grandfathered plans and enrollment in grandfathered plans has been gradually decreasing: 37 percent of firms offering health benefits offered at least one grandfathered health plan in 2014, less than 54 percent in 2013. Twenty-six percent of covered workers are enrolled in a grandfathered health plan in 2014, down from 36 percent in 2013.

Private exchanges. While many firms are exploring private exchanges to offer coverage to workers, relatively few covered workers at large employers received benefits through a private exchange: just 3 percent in 2014. Thirteen percent of large firms are considering offering benefits through a private exchange in the future.

Other findings. The Kaiser/HRET survey covers many topics, including premium increases, deductibles, and wellness benefits:

• Premiums. Average annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $16,834 in 2014, up 3 percent from 2013. Workers on average paid $4,823 annually toward the cost of family coverage. Annual premiums for single coverage were $6,025, and workers on average contributed $1,081 toward the cost of single coverage.

• Deductibles. The percentage of workers facing an annual deductible in their health plans is on the rise, noted Kaiser/HRET. Eighty percent of all covered workers had a deductible for their employer-sponsored health plan. The average deductible was $1,217 in 2014. But, 18 percent of workers faced an annual deductible of at least $2,000. Since 2009, the average deductible has risen 47 percent from $826.

• Wellness plans. Nearly all large employers (98 percent) and most smaller ones (73 percent) that offer health benefits also offer at least one wellness program. The survey found that the number of employers who offer financial incentives for participating in wellness programs has risen to 36 percent of large employers and 18 percent of small employers.

The survey includes responses from 3,139 employers with three or more employees. For more information, visit http://kff.org/EHBS.

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