March 23, 2015, marked the five-year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Also in 2015, the public exchanges began their second year of operation, and the Employer Shared Responsibility (ESR) requirements went into effect after a year’s delay. ESR sets minimum standards for plan value and affordability, which most employer-sponsored plans already met before the ACA was passed. However, it also mandates that employers offer coverage to all employees working 30 or more hours per week, and over a fourth of all employers did not meet this requirement at the time of the law’s signing. Many waited until 2015 to make the changes needed to avoid penalties. This made open enrollment for 2015 something of a wild card. With employers expanding eligibility to more employees, it was possible we would see a spike in enrollment levels.
Health Care Reform Five Years In, Mercer’s latest survey on health reform, asked employers about open enrollment results for 2015 to determine the impact of ESR on employer-sponsored plans. We found that while enrollment did not rise on the national level, some employers had quite significant increases, while others reported decreases. The survey also examined how the ACA is affecting workforce strategy, and asked about employers’ preparations for avoiding the excise tax on high-cost plans in 2018 and for meeting ACA reporting requirements.
The survey — the eighth in our series on health care reform — was fielded in January and February of 2015. Respondents included 568 employers of all sizes, industries, and geographic locations in the US. The full report is now available, and you can download it here.