Fortune 500 companies shift more costs to employees

Survey: Fortune 500 employees can expect to pay more for health insurance

By Peggy Binette
University of South Carolina, September 18, 2014

Employees working for Fortune 500 companies can expect to pay higher employee contributions for their health insurance, according to a survey of chief human resource officers about the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as PPACA or Obamacare) conducted by the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina this past May/June.

Patrick Wright, a professor in strategic human resource management, directs the annual the HR@Moore Survey of Chief HR Officers.

Key findings from the survey include:

• 78 percent report a rise in health insurance costs (average of 7.73 percent);
• 73 percent report having moved or will move employees to Consumer Directed Health Plans;
• 71 percent report raising or plans to raise employee contributions to health insurance;
• 30 percent report moving or plans to move pre-65 retirees to ACA health exchanges;
• 27 percent report cutting back health insurance coverage eligibility;
• 24 percent report ensuring that part-time employees work less than 30 hours weekly to avoid penalty;
• 12 percent report increasing or plan to increase part-time workers; and
• 10 percent report limiting or plan to limit the full-time employee hires.

87 percent of chief HR officers reported taking or planning to take last least one action to reduce costs. And, most of those actions are being shouldered by employees.

The most common strategy is moving employees into Consumer Directed Health Plans. CDHPs provide employees with a set amount of money for regular (not catastrophic) healthcare that they manage, which shifts responsibility from employer to worker. Firms also are defraying the rising cost of health insurance to employees by raising the premiums they pay for their health insurance and limiting dependent coverage.

PPACA requires employers to provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours or more weekly. While small businesses are more likely to hire part-time workers, Wright says, larger firms are enforcing the cap to avoid increased costs.

One CHRO told Wright "When we put the limit at 30 hours, we frequently had people that worked 32-34 hours, and if enough of them did so, it would put us at legal risk for fines. Therefore we now limit workers to 27 hours to ensure that we minimize the number that might exceed 30 hours."

The recent U.S. jobs report in June reported an increase of 799,000 part-time jobs compared to an increase of 288,000 full-time jobs, which may reflect the employment strategies being reported in the HR@Moore survey.

Wright says what continues to be unclear is whether the quality of employee healthcare has improved or suffered as a result of Obamacare.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

This academic survey of human resource officers at Fortune 500 companies shows that they plan to address rising costs of their health benefit programs by increasing the financial burden on their employees. Check the key findings from the survey listed above. Each one is bad news for the employees.

The most important reason given for choosing the model of reform that became the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was that the majority of Americans were receiving their health care coverage through their employment, and that these plans provided the best coverage available. The best of the best were the plans offered by the very large employers - the Fortune 500 companies.

So what is their response? As if there were not enough problems already with excess deductibles, narrower provider networks, tiering of health care services and drugs, limiting dependent coverage, and other innovations that impair access and reduce costs, in the face of ever more increasing costs the employers are now raising employee contributions to the plans, shifting to consumer directed plans that place a greater financial burden on the employees, reducing eligibility for their employees, shifting retirees out of their plans, reducing hours for part-time employees in order to avoid ACA penalties, and limiting full-time employee hires while increasing part-time workers. And this is the best of the best!

The diagnosis is obvious. ACA was the wrong model for reform. We need a single payer national health program. Delaying that change will only cause the deficiencies to get worse, especially when we leave the private insurers in charge. It’s too bad that the Fortune 500 executives don’t have a little more empathy for their employees. After all, it’s their employees who have been responsible for the increases in productivity - the gains of which the executives are scooping off the top.

If empathy doesn’t cut it, the executives need to be reminded of Nick Hanauer’s “The Pitchforks Are Coming … For Us Plutocrats”: