As the Affordable Care Act’s Cadillac tax looms, a majority of organizations in the U.S. are looking ahead to ways they can cut down on the costs of providing health care.

While there has been a slight decrease since 2012 of the “very concerned”, overall 99% of employers are still “somewhat” or “very” concerned about their ability to control health care costs going forward, the Society for Human Resource Management says in its latest report. 

To alleviate some of the burden, half say they have increased employees’ share of contributions to health care costs, while roughly a quarter of employers say plan to raise employees’ share this year.

“A growing number of employers are asking employees to contribute a larger percentage of their health care costs,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs. “But it is important that employers fully assess the potential impact of such a change, especially in today’s improved job market. Shifting health care costs to employees can lower employee job satisfaction and pose a barrier for attracting new talent.”

Also see: Cadillac tax, wellness program clarity top employer priorities

The interplay between health care and attraction and retention is industry-specific, and also relies on the job market, says Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy at the National Business Group on Health. “But any time you make any kind of change in any kind of benefits, or when you’re setting compensation — because this is just a different form of compensation — you have to take into account labor market conditions and what your competitors are doing and your ability to attract and retain talent. That should always be the first thing to keep in mind,” he adds.

Also, he notes, as some of the new, heftier ACA taxes emerge in 2018, it’s important for employers to make sure they’re communicating the “big picture” to employees.

According to SHRM’s data, some of the activities employers are implementing to help offset health care costs include educational initiatives related to health and wellness, lower-cost generic prescription drugs and the use of consumer-directed health plans.

While many of SHRM’s suggestions echo NBGH analysis, Wojcik adds that it helps to also make sure employees are better health care consumers going forward.

For example, he says, if someone gets a migraine, instead of going to the hospital, let them know to call the nurse hotline included in their benefits package. It’ll be less expensive and may save them from catching something like the flu while sitting in a hospital waiting room, he adds. 

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