Filed Under:Markets, Employee Benefits

Big employers cool on offering health plans

A few big employers want to stop subsidizing spousal coverage. (AP photo/Charles Dharapak)
A few big employers want to stop subsidizing spousal coverage. (AP photo/Charles Dharapak)

Benefits managers at a majority of large employers expect their companies to be offering group health plans five years from now -- but some do not.

About 12 percent have told the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and Towers Watson that they might simply give employees subsidies and send their employees to the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health insurance exchanges to buy their own health benefits, up from 11 percent ago.

About 5 percent of the benefits managers said their companies could send employees to the exchanges without providing a subsidy.

Roughly 1 percent said their companies already have eliminated any subsidies for spousal coverage, and 4 percent said their companies will eliminate spousal coverage subsidies in 2014.

But about 60 percent said they expect their companies to still be providing health benefits for full-time employees in five years.

Analysts at the NBGH and Towers Watson have reported those figures in a summary of results from a survey of benefits managers at 583 employers with at least 1,000 employees.

 The researchers found that proposals for moderate cutbacks in spousal and dependent benefits are more popular than more radical moves.

Although only 5 percent are thinking about eliminating spousal benefits subsidies, about 33 percent are at companies that do charge or intend to charge higher rates when spouses who could get coverage elsewhere sign up for the plan.

About 18 percent of the companies do require or intend to require spouses who have access to their own employer plans to sign up for their own employers' plans. 

Employers also are increasing employees' responsibility for paying for coverage for children and other dependents.

"The most successful companies are also more likely to have increased employee contributions per each dependent covered (13 percent, versus low performers at 6 percent)," the researchers said.

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