Survey: Most employers not dropping health plans in 2014

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A new survey is the latest attempt by industry analysts to determine whether companies will continue to offer employer-sponsored health plans after insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014.

Consulting firm Towers Watson surveyed 368 mid-to-large-sized companies, finding that only one in 10 expects to stop offering health coverage to their employees. Another one in five companies don't know what they will do, reports the Associated Press. But the really good news for insurers is that more than 75 percent of employers think healthcare benefits will continue to be part of their total "employee value proposition" in 2014.

The survey also found that 88 percent of employers plan on taking steps to control their healthcare costs in the upcoming years, and almost 50 percent said they might substantially reduce benefits offered to employees.

Some employers plan to start shifting to high-deductible, account-based health plans and updating wellness incentives in 2014 to help offset costs. For example, 57 percent of employers are considering rewarding or penalizing employees based on their blood pressure, according to National Underwriter.

These results should be viewed as a snapshot of how companies are currently thinking and aren't necessarily a final decision, as there are still many unresolved variables, Randall Abbott, healthcare consultant with Towers Watson, told the AP. For example, employers may change their minds after they learn more about how the exchanges will work or whether employees will accept them. The employers that do decide to drop coverage will probably have few employees enrolled in their plans and high turnover like retail or hospitality businesses.

The Towers Watson results differ from McKinsey's survey conclusions that found 30 percent of employers said they would "definitely or probably" stop offering health coverage after 2014.

To learn more:
- see the Towers Watson survey
- read the Associated Press article
- read the National Underwriter article

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