Employers Looking to Make Health Plan Changes in 2015

Few employers are planning to eliminate their health benefits in 2015, but they are still looking to make noticeable changes, according to a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Few employers are planning to eliminate their health benefits in 2015, but they are still looking to make noticeable changes, according to a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

The report uses findings from the SHRM/EBRI 2014 Health Benefits Survey, which found just 1% of plan sponsors expect to eliminate health benefits in 2015, but a large number of employers will continue to introduce wellness rewards and penalties.

“We are in the middle of open enrollment season, so we figured people would be interested to know what health plan sponsors are thinking,” Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program, and author of the report, said in a statement. “We found that very few employers plan to make major changes—at least for now—and most seem to be moving toward adoption of wellness programs.”

The most common change employers will make to healthcare plans in 2015 is adding wellness rewards or penalties (26.3%), followed by requiring spouses to get coverage through their own employer (7.9%), institute spousal surcharge (6.7%), and create tiered networks (3.6%). Just 1% plans to eliminate coverage entirely and 1.3% plans to eliminate coverage for part-time workers.

Other plan design options garnering less interest right now were private health insurance exchanges (3.2%), value-based insurance design (2.6%), or reference pricing (0.6%).

Changes to healthcare plans are being led by large companies with 750 or more full-time employees. More than a third (34.6%) of large employers will add wellness rewards or penalties, for instance.

According to the EBRI report, the increasing interest in wellness programs may be a result of both the Affordable Care Act’s financial incentives and the 2018 excise tax on high-cost health plans. As of now, 15% of plan sponsored expect at least one of their plans will trigger the excise tax.

“Ultimately, concerns about triggering the excise tax on high-cost health plans may result in accelerated adoption of tiered networks, private health insurance exchanges, value-based insurance design, and reference pricing,” the report concludes.