A new survey by the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Health Studies suggests that most employers are ready for their new responsibilities under Obamacare. Polling of 300 company decision-makers this March and April showed a significant increase in understanding of the health-care law compared to last year. In 2013, only 37 percent of employers said they were "very informed" about their health-insurance options; in 2014, that number jumped to 69 percent.
Larger employers were generally better informed than smaller ones: 82 percent of companies with 100 or more employees said they were very well informed about their options. Of course, this is the group that needs to be ready first. Thanks to deadline extensions, midsize companies (with 50 to 99 full-time-equivalent employees) now have until January 2016 to fully comply with the employer mandate; those with 100 or more full-timers must start offering health benefits by January 2015.
According to the survey, nearly all employers who will be affected by the mandate are already offering health benefits to full-time workers: 95 percent of those with 50 to 99 employees, and 97 percent of those with 100 or more. Though almost a quarter of employers report that they are researching workforce reductions to help lessen the impact of ACA mandates--more employers expect to add workers (28 percent) rather then cut them (15 percent) as a result of the ACA.
The smallest employers--those with fewer than 50 full-time workers--are the least likely to offer coverage, and least likely to understand their coverage options. Fifty-seven percent of businesses with fewer than 50 full-time workers don't offer health benefits. Of those, only 7 percent say they plan to add such benefits. This finding lends support to the growing view that these small businesses will largely choose to send workers to the individual market for health coverage, rather than setting up group plans.
To bump up group health insurance participation from small businesses, the government will need to do a better job at communication and outreach. Although eight in 10 companies surveyed say they aware of the SHOP exchanges for small businesses, only six in 10 businesses with fewer than 50 employees--those that are actually eligible to use SHOP--are aware of the program.
To help spread the word about options for small companies, the government last month launched a couple of new tools on Healthcare.gov that are designed to demystify SHOP coverage, including a calculator for determining your full-time equivalent employees, and a tool to help estimate the size of the tax credit for which your small business might qualify. For more on the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, see Inc.'s Obamacare Guide.