The last two years have been a virtual health insurance battleground. The political fiasco surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) has many employees irked and asking where to look for health insurance protection. Entrepreneur Walt Rowen knows this all too well. Rowen owns a company engraving glass with over 70 employees and once switched from offering benefits, to referring employees to the health insurance exchange. Increasing premiums and an uncertain future lead Rowen to reclaim control, once again offering benefits through an umbrella program.
Employer-sponsored insurance protection is becoming once again popular. Health benefits are in high demand by the American worker even with the political turmoil surrounding them. Good employees are worth attracting. In a workforce where good talent is in high demand, companies aren’t willing to leave it up to the government. More companies are offering health benefits on their terms. In 2016 the Kaiser Family Members Foundation stated almost 96% of businesses with 50 or more employees offered coverage in 2014. By choice, almost 35% of businesses with less than 50 did as well.
In Rowen’s opinion, companies are unlikely to abandon health coverage completely. This would, in his opinion, likely lead to mass exits as employees find better alternatives; this is especially so in states with a weak Affordable Care Act market. Since the future of the ACA remains uncertain, the government is likely to continue enforcing companies with 50 or more employees to offer health insurance coverage.
The Trump administration pledged to continue working with Congress to write effective health care legislation. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the ACA mandated many people pay for services they were unable to afford. At present, the White House is considering continuing cost-sharing aid, a premium-reducing benefit. Take it away and it’s estimated premiums will increase and insurance firms will leave markets completely.
A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found 61% of those surveyed opposed revoking the ruling, including 58% who identify as Republicans. Since World War Two, when Congress granted tax exemption to benefits, health coverage has been the national standard. Today nearly 90% of employees work for companies with health and wellness benefits, according to the Kaiser Family study in 2016. When dependents are included in that figure, nearly half of Americans are covered under employer programs.
William Kramer, executive director for national health policy for the Pacific Business Group on Health, agrees with Rowen that large companies must keep workers happy and would be unwise to cut benefits. This finding has many thinking it’s likely businesses will continue to. On top of that, reduced unemployment and a competitive workforce drive companies to offer benefits far beyond the ACA requirements. Even if the mandate to offer coverage is removed, experts suspect many companies will carry on offering benefits.
Glass company owner Walt Rowen said his decision to reinstate on medical insurance had less to do requirements. For Rowen, the decision to bring benefits back has more to do with staff retention and overhead expenses. There was a time when it made more sense to pay the fine, rather than pay for benefits. Packages are more affordable today, and the competition for good talent is strong. The turmoil and fallout from the ACA make it more affordable to offer benefits today than in previous years. For Rowen, the expenses involved are a worthy investment. He is sure if employees found a less-expensive plan, or a company offering health insurance where he wasn’t, staff would understandably take the offer.
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