Small employers aren't thinking about health reform

Most small businesses (85 percent) say they aren’t making changes or long-term plans based on health care reform legislation, according to an eHealth survey of small business owners released Thursday.

Beginning in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires businesses with fifty or more full-time employees to provide health insurance coverage for their workers. Businesses with less than 50 employees are exempt from this requirement, but employees may be required to purchase their own coverage.

The “Small Employer Health Insurance Survey” from eHealth focused on those businesses that would be exempt, with 88 percent of the 236 small businesses having ten or less workers.

Though they don’t have to comply with PPACA, 60 percent said they plan to continue offering coverage for their employees in 2014. Among those employers who considered themselves knowledgeable about aspects of health reform, a larger majority (69 percent) said they had no plans to stop offering coverage to employees. Still, a third of those employers said they might consider dropping employer-based group health insurance beginning in 2014.

[See "Employer-offered health insurance drops to record low"]

Almost half (44 percent) said they feel a “moral obligation” to provide employees with health insurance.

Still, nearly all of the respondents (95 percent) said affordability is one of their two most important factors when choosing a plan to offer, behind “richness of benefits” (68 percent). Most (79 percent) report spending $200 or more for health insurance per insured employees or dependent each month, and 53 percent said they required employees to contribute 10 percent or less of the total cost for their own or their dependents’ monthly health insurance premium.

Nate Purpura, eHealth's director of PR and communications, says the survey confirms what he's been hearing on a daily basis, "which is that small employers want to provide benefits to their employees but they’re very concerned about cost and they have no idea how health care reform impacts them in 2012."

As to why they're not planning for health reform, Purpura points to two reasons.

"First, most of these are small family owned businesses that don’t have the time to really investigate big pieces of government legislation to try and figure out how it might help them," Purpura says. "And, secondly, many people think 2014 is the big year when most of the changes really kick in. For a small business owner trying to make it month to month, 2014 is a long way away."

Still, there are things small employers are doing now. To maintain costs but keep coverage for its employees, small businesses said they’re willing to drop benefits like dental and vision (58 percent) or consider raising deductibles and offering accident or critical illness coverage (74 percent).

The survey was conducted anonymously online between February 10 and March 13.

More coverage on the individual mandate from BenefitsPro


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