Whatever employers have spent to comply with the Affordable Care Act so far, some feel the costliest years are yet to come.

“The extensive amounts of data that employers are required to collect can take hours of manpower and even require complex IT infrastructures. The process has meant a cost increase for many, especially smaller organizations,” says Julie Stich, director of research with the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

One-third of employers (33%) expect the greatest cost increase from ACA implementation to take place in 2016, according to a new survey from the IFEBP. Just over one-quarter (27%) expect the largest cost increase in 2018.

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Twenty percent say the impending excise tax will be their future top cost driver, followed by general administrative costs (19%) and costs associated with reporting, disclosure and notification requirements (13%).

“Interestingly, we have seen a trend of employers continually anticipating the worst, where each upcoming year looms with the largest costs,” says Stich. “In 2014, the majority felt 2015 would bring the largest costs. In 2015, 2016 seems to be the worst.”

The unknown outcome of the pending ACA Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell, adds to employers’ uncertainties about the future. Nine in ten organizations say they are following the discussion surrounding this case.

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And yet, despite their fears about rising costs, only 12% are considering moving their active full-time employees to a private exchange. Three percent of organizations surveyed are currently using private exchanges for their full-time employees.

And nearly all surveyed employers say they will continue to provide employees with health insurance next year. Only 1.6% will continue coverage but will encourage some employees to seek coverage through the public exchanges, and just 0.2% plan to drop coverage for all employees.

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