Employers unsure of next moves on healthcare reform

Employers have a bleak outlook about Affordable Care Act preparedness, healthcare cost containment strategies and the U.S. healthcare system's overall performance, according to a new survey from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

The online survey polled 500 companies providing health insurance to workforces of 50 or more people and found that, three years into reform implementation, "the ACA remains largely a mystery to many employers."

The respondents panned the healthcare system as a whole, calling it costly, wasteful, underperforming and opaque. Employers want the system to work more transparently and deliver greater value for their financial investment in it.

Respondents also said that while the ACA will eventually boost insurance access, the law may not improve quality or reduce costs. Small businesses are groaning under the weight of ACA regulatory compliance, and many have reported paying higher employee health insurance premiums this year than in 2012.

The Deloitte survey found 54 percent of the employers providing health insurance are using employee cost sharing tactics to curb healthcare costs. And 36 percent are implementing employee wellness programs, but few evaluate the return on investment of these initiatives or analyze subsequent claims data to drive decision-making.

The ACA's overhaul of the health insurance system will lead employers to a crossroads about providing health insurance to their employees, according to Deloitte. That's where many businesses now stand, waiting to see if health insurance exchanges succeed before making major changes to their health benefits offerings. Employers have joined the company of office-based primary care doctors, who also remain unsure of how the ACA rollout will affect business, as FierceHealthcare previously reported.    

But companies can't stay in wait-and-see-mode forever. "The clock is ticking," Deloitte said, noting that competitive considerations, the employer mandate in effect and competitors' actions will guide their next moves.

For more: 
- check out the Deloitte survey (.pdf)