Survey: Firms shift ACA costs to employees

Employees of Fortune 500 companies can expect to pay more for health insurance as their employers try to manage the costs of complying with the Affordable Care Act, a survey by the University of South Carolina found. The survey's purpose was to measure changes in employment practices stemming from ACA implementation.

Researchers polled 560 chief human resources officers of Fortune 500 companies and members of HR Policy Association, a large professional society. The response rate was 38 percent.  

Seventy-eight percent of respondents blamed the ACA for health insurance cost increases averaging 7.73 percent. More than a third of respondents reported ACA-related hikes in labor costs.

As a result, most respondents took at least one action to offset the resulting budget hits, the survey found. Tactics included moving staff to consumer-driven health plans--which may bode well, considering the overall satisfaction rate among CDHP enrollees is on the rise--and raising employees' health insurance contributions. Less common practices were moving early retirees into ACA exchanges and limiting dependent coverage.   

Earlier this year, Target Corporation stopped offering health insurance to part-time employees. Survey respondents are also changing how they manage part-time staff, the study found, since the ACA requires large employers to insure employees who work 30 or more hours weekly.

Nearly a quarter of respondents reported limiting part-time staff to work weeks of less than 30 hours in an effort to avoid penalties. Twelve percent of respondents reported increasing--or planning to increase--part-time work forces, and 10 percent reported limiting--or planning to limit--hiring full-time employees. These results echo the findings of a June U.S. jobs report, which showed an increase of 799,999 part-time jobs compared to an increase of 288,000 full-time jobs nationwide, a USC announcement noted.

While shifting insurance costs to employees may help balance budgets, these changes could cause problems elsewhere. In a survey last year by the Healthcare Trends Institute, human resources executives emphasized that health benefits packages are important for employee recruitment and retention as well as improving productivity and reducing absenteeism.

For more:
- here's the University of South Carolina survey report (.pdf) and announcement