Towers Watson, a leading human resources consulting firm, has conducted a survey of 661 human resource and benefit specialists across America. While benefit professionals are still digesting the new law, the survey shows that they are even more skeptical of Obamacare than the public is.
These benefit specialists represent a broad range of industries, and are responsible for choosing health insurance plans for almost 4 million Americans. If their fears come true, the future of American health care is bleak. Among the survey’s highlights:
- 90% believe that Obamacare “will increase their organization’s health care benefit costs”;
- 88% intend to pass the increases onto employees by increasing employee premium contributions or other cost-sharing measures;
- 74% intend to “reduce health benefits and programs” by using stingier health plans, restricting eligibility for health coverage, and using spousal waivers or surcharges.
Another group that will be affected by Obamacare, according to the survey, are retirees, especially early retirees (i.e., those under the age of 65). 77% of employers believe that large companies will reduce or eliminate their retiree health benefits, now that the law prevents insurers from shunning those with pre-existing conditions. “Just as many baby boomers are deciding whether to delay retirement, employers will be determining if it makes financial sense for them to remain in the retiree medical business,” said Dave Osterndorf, a senior consulting actuary at Towers Watson. The pre-existing condition mandate “will likely accelerate employers exiting sponsorship of retiree health programs.“ Naturally, the more that employers opt out of sponsoring their retirees’ health benefits, the more that the government will end up picking up the tab.
On the bright side, 58% of employers said that the rising cost of health insurance would lead them to replace their existing health benefits with consumer-driven health plans (assuming that Obamacare doesn’t outlaw them). 74% said that they do not plan to discontinue health coverage for their active employees, though “it’s something you want to monitor over time,” said Mark Maselli, head of the Towers Watson group that conducted the study.