HealthLeaders Media: How AHCA Could Affect Employers, Employees
Even if required benefits are trimmed in the next version of the American Health Care Act, the employer market is not likely to react soon. Employers do need to brace for more price sensitivity, however.
The potential changes to healthcare plans resulting from Republican efforts to reform the Affordable Care Act could have far reaching effects for some consumers. But those who receive insurance coverage through their employers will be slow to feel any impact, says one analyst.
That doesn’t mean employers can rest easy, however, because they must still adjust to the growing price sensitivity of their employees.
Republicans in the Senate have not yet released their bill for reforming Obamacare, which is expected to pull back on some provisions of the House bill such as those trimming the essential health benefits.
On Tuesday, President Trump characterized the House-passed healthcare bill as “mean” and urged lawmakers to come up with a version that is “more generous.”
But even if the House bill as it stands now were to become law, it would be years before there was any real impact on the employer market, says Kim Buckey, health care regulations expert and vice president of client services at DirectPath.
The company provides strategic employee engagement, compliance management, and benefits plan management services for Fortune 1000 companies.
“First, states would have to elect to waive essential health benefits, then, we’d have to see the first ‘brave’ employers decide to base their plans on one of those pared back definitions. That would affect annual and lifetime coverage limits and out-of-pocket limits,” Buckey says.
“Since we know how important health insurance is to employees and prospective employees, employers will be very cautious about adopting such a change given the potential impact on employee attraction and retention.”
However, employers will only be able to hold out for so long before economic pressures make them consider altering their employee coverage, she notes. They would be well advised to lay the groundwork now for changes that might have to be made in the future, Buckey says.
“Employers should address the elephant in the room during the upcoming enrollment period. If they haven’t done so already, they should share their benefits and compensation philosophy, and maybe even share some of the costs they are facing and what the trend has been.”
“Employees are never going to like increased cost-sharing, but if they can understand why it’s happening, it should reduce some tensions,” she says.
Employers also will see greater demand for transparency and advocacy services, which are already popular, Buckey says.
“Employees will be more wary of big-ticket items like expensive tests and surgeries, and will look for all the help they can get in controlling those costs. And that applies just as much to expenses after the fact. As more employees become aware of the error rate in medical bills, they’ll want to see where they can potentially save on the back end as well.”
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(Gregory A. Freeman is a contributing writer.)