Majority of U.S. Workers Believe Affordable Care Act will Increase Insurance Premiums, Survey Finds

Despite an overall lack of familiarity with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a majority of U.S. workers believe the healthcare reform law ultimately will increase how much they pay for healthcare insurance over the next several years, according to a nationwide survey of employees conducted by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), a nonprofit association of more than 375 large U.S. employers. The survey also found an increasing number of employees who are confident in their ability to shop for health insurance on their own, and that many workers would use a private health insurance exchange to buy insurance if offered by their employer.

According to experts with NBGH, employers will need to educate employees about the value of all their benefits, especially health benefits, so that employees understand the total rewards they are receiving as part of their compensation.

According to the survey, more than half (54 percent) of respondents believe their health insurance premiums will rise over the next 12 months because of the ACA, and slightly more than half (56 percent) expect costs to jump over the next three to five years. Additionally, about one in three employees (32 percent) believe that the quality of their healthcare benefits will decline over the next three to five years. Relatively few (15 percent) think they won’t be able to afford coverage through their employer or union over the next three to five years, and even fewer (10 percent) believe their employer or union won’t offer coverage in the future.

Interestingly, the survey found that only four in 10 respondents are familiar with the ACA itself, although respondents are familiar with some of the law’s specific provisions. For example, 69 percent are at least somewhat familiar with the requirement that individuals must have or must purchase insurance; 63 percent know that large- and mid-sized employers must offer insurance to full-time employees. However, fewer than four in 10 (38 percent) are aware of the creation of public health insurance exchanges.

“While employees have some knowledge about the ACA, they need to recognize that health reform brings with it additional costs for their employers and that, ultimately, they will be sharing in these costs,” says Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “Neither employers nor the government can bear these added costs alone. At the same time, it’s encouraging that relatively few employees are concerned that their employer won’t provide health insurance benefits in the future. Additionally, employees are gaining confidence in their ability to shop for insurance and many are open to new and potentially cost effective ways to buy insurance through exchanges.”

Indeed, only 28 percent of respondents said they are not confident they can shop for health insurance on their own, compared with 37 percent who responded to a similar question last year. However, nearly half (47 percent) aren’t confident in their ability to purchase the same or better quality health insurance on their own.

The survey found that even though two in three respondents (66 percent) have not heard of a private exchange, when given an explanation of how it works, more than half (52 percent) said they would be somewhat or very interested in purchasing health insurance through a private exchange if offered by their employer.

Additionally, 66 percent would shop through a public exchange if offered as a less expensive option. However, more employees would stick with their employer plan if the costs were the same and even if there were more choices offered in a public exchange.

The survey, “Employer Perspectives on the Future of Health Benefits and Healthcare Delivery,” was conducted from July 30 to August 8, 2013. A total of 1,520 employees at organizations with 2,000 or more employees responded to the survey. Respondents were between the ages of 22 and 69 and receive their healthcare benefits through their employer or union.