Obamacare: What to Expect

by Gerri Willis

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All week we’ve been talking about open enrollment for the Obamacare insurance exchanges but October is also when sign ups start for corporate health plans. Of Americans who are of working age, 58 percent get their health insurance coverage through employers and for those who do it’s an essential part of their compensation.  Last year, employees paid just 21 percent of overall health care premiums. Employers picked up the rest.

So what can we expect this year?

  • You’ll pay more for coverage. Aon Hewitt’s experts see prices rising – not because employers are spending less but because they are keeping the percentage of their contribution at year-ago levels while overall healthcare prices rise. Aon forecast last year that for 2013 premiums would rise a whopping 6.3 percent. Employee costs  were expected to rise to $2,385 for premiums and  $2,429 for out of pocket costs like co pays and employee contributions. Employer costs were expected to rise to $11,188 for the year. What’s more, almost one in five employers are facing increased surcharges for adult dependents for access to coverage elsewhere.
  • Watch out for more high-deductible plans, also called consumer-driven health care. These plans carry low premiums but employees with this coverage can be on the hook for huge costs if they experience an emergency health problem or life-threatening illness. But the low costs of these plans have made them popular with younger workers, and employers are moving to satisfy that demand. In fact, some employers are making these plans more attractive by subsidizing premiums at higher levels than other plan options.
  •  More free stuff for people who engage in healthy behaviors, like smoking cessation classes or gym memberships. (Of course, more companies may offer more penalties, as well.)
  • A redrawing of the lines of who gets coverage. Aon says Obamacare and the individual mandate is pushing companies to reconsider who can get coverage.

Bottom line, employers are trying to reduce or at least hold even their costs for employee health care. For that reason and the fact that the plans are changing, you’ll want to do more than just check the box for the plan you had last year. Aon health and welfare benefits leader Craig Rosenberg recommends carefully reading and understanding the details of each of the plans you are offered.