SOURCE: National Business Group on Health

October 22, 2013 12:30 ET

Majority of U.S. Workers Believe Affordable Care Act Will Increase Health Insurance Premiums, National Business Group on Health Survey Finds

Employees Gaining Confidence in Ability to Shop for Insurance: Majority Interested in Private Exchanges If Offered

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Oct 22, 2013) - Despite an overall lack of familiarity with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a majority of U.S. workers believe the health care reform law will ultimately increase how much they pay for health care insurance over the next several years, according to a nationwide survey of employees conducted by the National Business Group on Health, a non-profit association of more than 375 large U.S. employers. The survey also found an increasing number of employees who are confident in their ability to shop for health insurance on their own, and that many workers would use a private health insurance exchange to buy insurance if offered by their employer.

According to the survey, more than half (54%) of respondents believe their health insurance premiums will rise over the next 12 months because of the ACA, and slightly more than half (56%) expect costs to jump over the next three to five years. Additionally, about one in three employees (32%) believe that the quality of their health care benefits will decline over the next three to five years. Relatively few (15%) think they won't be able to afford coverage through their employer or union over the next three to five years, and even fewer (10%) believe their employer or union won't offer coverage in the future.

Interestingly, the survey found that only four in 10 respondents are familiar with the ACA itself, although respondents are familiar with some of the law's specific provisions. For example, more than two-thirds (69%) are at least somewhat familiar with the requirement that individuals must have or must purchase insurance; 63% know that large- and mid-sized employers must offer insurance to full-time employees. However, fewer than four in 10 (38%) are aware of the creation of public health insurance exchanges.

"While employees have some knowledge about the ACA, they need to recognize that health reform brings with it additional costs for their employers and that, ultimately, they will be sharing in these costs," said Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. "Neither employers nor the government can bear these added costs alone. At the same time, it's encouraging that relatively few employees are concerned that their employer won't provide health insurance benefits in the future. Additionally, employees are gaining confidence in their ability to shop for insurance and many are open to new and potentially cost effective ways to buy insurance through exchanges."

Indeed, only 28% of respondents said they are not confident they can shop for health insurance on their own, compared with 37% who responded to a similar question last year. However, nearly half (47%) aren't confident in their ability to purchase the same or better quality health insurance on their own. 

The survey found that even though two in three respondents (66%) have not heard of a private exchange, when given an explanation of how it works, more than half (52%) said they would be somewhat or very interested in purchasing health insurance through a private exchange if offered by their employer. 

Additionally, two-thirds (66%) would shop through a public exchange if offered as a less expensive option. However, more employees would stick with their employer plan if the costs were the same and even if there were more choices offered in a public exchange.

"Employees have clearly gained confidence in the last year when it comes to purchasing health care on their own. This confidence probably arises from the opening of the public marketplaces. However, many employees are not confident in their ability to purchase the same or higher quality care. Employers will need to educate employees about the value of all their benefits, especially health benefits so that employees understand the total rewards they are receiving as part of their compensation," said Darling.

Employees' Views on Health Care Delivery

The survey asked employees how they view various aspects of health care delivery. Among those findings:

  • Comparative Effective Research - 58% of employees have heard or read about comparative effectiveness research at least once. Of those who have heard about it, the vast majority (92%) believe this type of scientific research is somewhat or very important.
  • Centers of Excellence - Four in 10 have heard of health care facilities called Centers of Excellence. Six in 10 had a positive reaction to an employer encouraging them to seek care at a Center of Excellence.
  • Preferred Provider Networks - When asked about insurance companies' setting up networks of doctors/medical providers who are considered best, 48% had a positive reaction to the idea. However, when asked what they would do if their provider was not part of the 'best' network, 40% would definitely or probably continue to see their own doctor while 44% would switch to a doctor in the 'best' network.

About the Survey
The survey, "Employer Perspectives on the Future of Health Benefits and Health Care Delivery," was conducted from July 30 to August 8, 2013. A total of 1,520 employees at organizations with 2,000 or more employees responded to the survey. Respondents were between the ages of 22 and 69 and receive their health care benefits through their employer or union.

About the National Business Group on Health(SM)
The National Business Group on Health (the Business Group) is the nation's only non-profit organization devoted exclusively to representing large employers' perspective on national health policy issues and providing practical solutions to its members' most important health care and health benefits challenges.

Business Group members are primarily Fortune 500 companies and large public-sector employers-representing the nation's most innovative health care purchasers-that provide health coverage for more than 50 million U.S. workers, retirees and their families. The Business Group fosters the development of a safe, high-quality health care delivery system and treatments based on scientific evidence of effectiveness. Business Group members share strategies for controlling health care costs, improving patient safety and quality of care, increasing productivity and supporting healthy lifestyles.

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