While Mercer’s surveys have consistently shown that large employers remain committed to offering health coverage, in the early days of health reform, sizable numbers of small employers thought it was likely that they would drop their plans and send employees to the public exchange. In 2013, 21% of employers with 50-499 employees said they were likely to drop their plans within the next five years; this number fell to 15% in 2014 and to just 7% this past year. Among employers with 500 or more employees, just 5% say they are likely to drop their plans, essentially unchanged from 4% in 2014. Even back in 2010, when there was greater concern that new health plan requirements under the ACA would drive up cost, just 6% of large employers said they were likely to terminate their plans within five years.
In that year, a fifth of small employers thought it was likely they would drop coverage. However, when we released these results, we also pointed out that in Massachusetts, where insurance exchanges had been operating under state-based health reform for over three years, it hadn’t happened. In fact, a study published in the June 2010 issue of Health Affairs found that enrollment in employer plans in Massachusetts grew during the four years in which many of the reforms on which the federal reform law was based had been in place. That finding suggested that few employers had chosen to drop plans despite the low penalties under the state’s "play or pay" rule.