While continued technical difficulties associated with Healthcare.gov, confusion over coverage options and angst about premium sticker shock keep making national headlines, the issues themselves do not appear to be triggering many employee inquiries inside HR departments.
“There has not been any effect that I have seen or heard, since most people are covered by their employer-sponsored plans,” reports Bruce Elliott, manager of compensation and benefits of the Society for Human Resource Management.
The ACA is simply not an issue for employees of Exchange Bank in Santa Rosa, Calif., none of whom would qualify for a federal subsidy, an actuarial analysis shows. All they need to do is work as little as 20 or more hours to receive generous coverage through their employer.
“Because the bank subsidizes 85% of the premium for individual coverage and 35% for dependents, our employees could clearly see that our platinum-level plan costs half of what a bronze-level plan would cost on the exchange,” says Lori Zaret, the bank’s executive VP of HR. She is more concerned about the 40% excise tax on so-called Cadillac coverage that is slated to take effect in 2018.
“As an employer that provided for its employees’ health care needs long before the Affordable Care Act was enacted, our ‘reward’ for being a good employer and [offering] quality health care options is projected to be a tax of about $185,000 for our POS plan alone,” she explains.
She says she wonders whether other employers that have consistently provided high-quality plans will be forced to offer lower-tier coverage to escape the chokehold of this tax.
There have also been no inquiries about health insurance “whatsoever” among nearly 1,000 employees of JetStream Ground Services, Inc. in Jupiter, Fla., reports CFO and corporate controller Georgianne Graves.
The company’s relatively low-wage workforce of mostly young and healthy individuals has historically expressed “very little interest in taking advantage of our already affordable plan,” she reports, noting that there has not been any significant amount of lost time for illness or paid time off.
“Until the auto-enrollment for large employers kicks in at some future date,” Graves says, “the employee base is not going to make inquiries into the affordability of our plan vs. the public exchanges. They appear to not be interested in obtaining coverage and will only inquire about it as a result of being forced into coverage via auto-enrollment at some point in the future.”
Commonwealth Fund research suggests that young adults struggle to afford health insurance, rather than believe they do not need it. Sara Collins, Ph.D., vice president for health care coverage and access program at the organization, believes uninsured Americans will try hard to obtain HIX coverage and subsidies, regardless of their health status or age.
Bruce Shutan is a Los Angeles freelance writer.
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