Original article from ebn.benefitnews.com

By Tristan Lejeune

The vast majority of employers are actively developing tactics to work within the Affordable Care Act and companies’ confidence in employer-sponsored health care is up. These are among the results of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ 2013 survey, released ahead of the group’s Washington Legislative Update conference, held today and tomorrow.

Only 10% of employers are still in a “wait-and-see mode” regarding health care reform regulations, according to the survey 2013 Employer-Sponsored Health Care: ACA’s Impact; the rest are busy taking steps to deal with reform’s rules and regulations.

Sixty-nine percent of employers tell the IFEBP that they definitely plan to provide employer-sponsored health care when exchanges begin in 2014; in 2012, only 46% of companies were willing to commit to that. An additional 25% say they are very likely to continue the offering.

Changes, however, are coming. Eighteen percent of employers have increased plan participants’ share of premiums, and a quarter plans to do so over the next year. Of those making changes, 25% are upping their emphasis on high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts, and 14% are assessing the feasibility of adding one.

“Employers across the country have to deal with the impact of implementing the ACA while still being able to provide competitive benefits for their employees,” says Julie Stich, research director for the IFEBP. “Employees across the board can expect to see changes in how their employer-sponsored health care plans operate.”

Benefits leaders are also doing more to spur healthy behavior: 19% are either developing an organized wellness program, or expanding an existing one. Fourteen percent of respondents are either adopting or expanding healthy-lifestyle financial incentives, and another 25% plan to do so in the next year.

“We are seeing trends that indicate more changes may be on the horizon. More and more organizations are losing their grandfathered status, dropping from 45% in 2011 to 27% in 2013,” says Stich. “Also many organizations are redesigning their plans to avoid the 2018 excise tax on high-cost or so called ‘Cadillac plans.’ In 2011, only one-in-ten indicated they were redesigning their plan to avoid the additional tax, but we’ve seen a steady increase over the past two years that shows the number will soon double.”