Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Workshop Highlights Insurance Trends Forecasts Shift Away from Employer Plans

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Workshop Highlights Insurance Trends Forecasts Shift Away from Employer Plans

Article excerpt

Despite all the media hoopla, most people are only bystanders as regards the Affordable Care Act. That's because most are covered through employers.

The health law focuses on improving the individual market and making buying plans more affordable for people.

So why should the 149 million covered by employer-sponsored insurance care about the 19 million non-elderly people who buy coverage directly? A joint Penn Leonard Davis Institute and Wharton Public Policy Initiative workshop held recently in Washington, D.C., pointed out several reasons.

Fewer employers offer coverage

Over time, fewer employers are offering coverage. The recent news that Walmart was ending coverage for 30,000 part-timers raised fears the law was leading many employers to drop coverage.

There is no evidence this is the case; still, a trend that predates the law suggests a slow shift away from employer coverage.

The percentage of firms offering plans fell from 66 percent in 1999 to 55 percent in 2014, the Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported. So more people may soon be getting a plan by shopping on public or private marketplaces.

Trend toward cutting costs

Benefits employers offer may start to resemble the more limited designs of marketplace plans. Although employers are not dropping coverage en masse, they have been adopting the same cost-cutting measures of plans on the marketplaces, such as higher deductibles, pricing tiers and "narrow" networks of providers.

Future changes

In 2015, the "employer mandate" will be phased in, requiring companies with 50 or more full-time employees to offer affordable insurance or pay a $2,000 penalty per employee, excluding the first 30 employees. …

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