Employers More Settled into ACA Regime

The number of employers expressing concern about health care law affecting their business is about half what it was three years ago.

Issues concerning government regulation in the realm of health care benefits have ebbed in importance for employers during the last three years, according to Littler Mendelson’s 4th annual Executive Employer Survey.

Three years ago, 64% of survey respondents said they were significantly concerned about regulatory issues surrounding health care affecting their business, compared with only 33% of respondents in 2015. However, in response to the challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and uncertainty surrounding its implementation, more than half (55%) of employers engaged employee benefits attorneys or consultants to help navigate upcoming regulations and track areas where there are likely to be changes—but this is down from 58% in 2014.                  

One-third of employers said they have taken no actions or plan to take no actions in response to the ACA in 2015, down from 39% in 2014. In addition, only 9% indicated they are delaying planning in some areas in the event that further concessions are granted, down from 13%.

The number of employers that reported taking a “wait and see” approach increased in 2015 to 18% from 14%. However, Littler Mendelson said this outlook was likely influenced by anticipation of the Supreme Court decision in King v. Burwell, which had not been decided at the time the survey was conducted. The Supreme Court has since made the decision that the ACA provides for health premium subsidies in states that use the federal insurance exchange. For employers already in compliance, the decision won’t have much of an effect, but employers who were waiting on this outcome to take action must turn their focus back on their policies, Littler Mendelson said.

While settling into the ACA regime, respondents to the survey expressed concern about implementing or administering an employee wellness program. Forty-one percent expressed concern about lack of guidance or negative guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about what constitutes a “voluntary program” and how not to run afoul of equal employment laws. Even though the EEOC issued guidance about wellness program incentives, 39% of had concerns about how to administer plans and how employees can be legally incentivized to participate.

The survey report highlights insights from more than 500 respondents about a variety of issues impacting employers.