A new study finds employer-sponsored health plans aren’t goinganywhere—at least for another few years.

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Amid the debate over what impact the Patient Protection andAffordable Care Act will have on employee health coverage, thesurvey out from the Midwest Business Group on Health foundemployers say it will be “business as usual in their approaches tohealth benefits.”

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The group polled employers around the country to gatherinformation on their strategic thinking in planning for 2013-2018to prepare and position their organizations for complying with thePPACA now that it’s been upheld by the Supreme Court. Employer sizeof those surveyed ranged from companies with more than 5,000employees, to mid-size companies with 1,001 to 5,000 workers andsmaller companies with fewer than 1,000 workers.

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“Employers still believe that health benefits are vital toattract talented employees and maintain a productive workforce,”says Scott Thompson, health care practice president at The BenfieldGroup, the health care market research firm that collaborated onthe survey. “This research found that most employers—especiallythose with more than 200 employees—will not drop employee benefitcoverage in the foreseeable future.”

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But that doesn’t mean employers aren’t making other arrangementsto cut costs.

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“They’ll control costs in other ways like implementing CDHPs,basing premium contributions on the number of dependents covered(unit pricing) and reducing benefits to avoid the Cadillac tax.Employers will continue to be active purchasers of health care,”Thompson says.

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The survey found that in preparation for the 2018 40 percentexcise tax on high cost “Cadillac” plans, 31 percent of employersindicated they plan to reduce their benefits in 2014-2016, with 41percent responding they will do so for 2017-2018.

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Costs will also go up as many move to consumer-driven healthplans. More than half of employers (57 percent) say they offerCDHPs, such as health savings accounts and health reimbursementaccounts, but that percentage will rise to 62 percent in 2013 andcontinue to rise steadily to 71 percent through 2018, the surveyfinds. More than a quarter (29 percent) of all employers will maketheir CDHP offering their only plan available to employees by2018.

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That echoes other research showing the rise of consumer-drivenplans. This fall, Aon Hewitt researchers said CDHPs have surpassedhealth maintenance organizations to become the second most commonplan design offered by U.S. employers.

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MBGH CEO and President Larry Boress says employers are embracingfor the upcoming additional changes of the law.

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“After 2013, the majority of employers responded that they willbe adjusting to the ‘new normal,’ making changes to their benefitdesign strategy in response to the post-ACA environment. Themajority plan to continue to offer benefits.”

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