Employers tweak benefits offerings in light of reform

Healthcare reform is influencing companies' employee benefits packages and driving employers to look at health insurance exchanges for future benefit offerings, according to a new national benchmark report from the educational platform Healthcare Trends Institute.

Of the more than 300 human resources executives, benefit specialists and other benefit decision-makers surveyed, 38.4 percent said reform will lead to increased employee cost-sharing and 33.6 percent noted it will prompt their companies to raise premium contributions. However, only 6 percent of respondents blamed reform for narrowing their provider networks.

Public exchanges are "somewhat" or "very familiar" to 62.1 percent of employers surveyed, while 55.5 percent are familiar with private exchanges. 

More than half of employers familiar with exchanges say the new online marketplaces will help employees make more cost-effective choices.

The Healthcare Trends Institute found 64.8 percent of employers say health benefits offerings are "very important" for employee recruitment and retention. Moreover, employers cite health benefits as "very important" to boosting employee morale and satisfaction, as well as reducing absenteeism and improving productivity (56.6 percent and 52 percent of respondents, respectively).

Another trend in healthcare benefits related to wellness, with 43.9 percent of companies surveyed already using a healthy lifestyle incentive program and 22 percent considering launching one.

This echoes a November study from Mercer that showed employers are increasingly providing wellness programs to their employees. Moreover, according to Mercer, 52 percent of large employers now offer financial motivation alongside their wellness programs, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Many employers are waiting to see if the exchanges succeed before making major changes to their health benefits offerings, according to a survey released this week from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. For companies in wait-and-see-mode, competitive considerations, the employer mandate in effect and competitors' actions will guide their next moves on healthcare reform.

For more:
- read the summary
- download the report

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