Large share of benefit professionals hope PPACA is overturned

A full 42% of employee benefit managers hope the Supreme Court will this month rule that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, according to research conducted by Employee Benefit News.

The survey of 774 benefit decisionmakers — including human resource VPs, managers and benefits directors — shows a plurality believe the law should be repealed. However, 24% oppose that view and, similar to the uncertainty of many average Americans, 35% haven’t drawn a conclusion on the matter.

 What’s even clearer from the data is that relatively few employers have totally revamped their benefit programs in response to the law, and most are not planning to drop health benefits after 2014 when insurance purchasing exchanges would become operative if PPACA is upheld. Specifically, 71% of respondents report that it is very likely they will maintain their plans, despite impending changes under PPACA. Still, 11% of respondents report they don’t know what their plans are beyond 2014.

While awaiting the Supreme Court decision on PPACA, expected to come this month, employers also continue to plan cost-containment measures, which most professionals say the law fails to address. For example, 27% of survey respondents say they intend to increase their investments in wellness programs as a means of improving employee health and reducing medical costs.

Among other findings from the EBN-Unum study:

* Senior executives are gaining influence in benefit purchasing decisions. While top executives — including chief financial officers — traditionally have played a vital role in benefit decisions within smaller organizations, they appear to be becoming more active within larger firms as well. For example, 10% of survey respondents from organizations with at least 2,000 employees report that the role of senior executives in benefit decision-making “increased substantially.”

* Employers are relying more on brokers and consultants for support. When asked whether there has been any change in their reliance upon these resources over the past two years, 25% reported an increase in such reliance. Increased reliance was highest among employers in the mid-sized range — those with between 1,000 and 1,999 employees.

* Voluntary benefits remain a solid fixture on the employee benefit landscape. Overall, 80% of survey respondents offer some form of voluntary benefits, with some categories (e.g., AD&D, which is offered by 79% of survey respondents) far more prevalent than others (e.g., concierge services) available at only 3% of the employers surveyed. The somewhat related finding of increasing employee cost sharing for benefits raises the question of whether “voluntary” benefits will remain a benefit category distinction.

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