With Tectonic Shifts in Health Care, Employer Opinions Count Big-Time

UBA Benefit Opinions SurveyWe’re asking some really interesting questions on the UBA Benefit Opinions Survey. Some of the answers (being compiled from what is shaping up to be the most comprehensive set of employers across all sizes, industries, and geography) are likely to surprise us all. Of particular interest, given the tectonic shifts in health care, the Benefit Opinions Survey is exploring the overall mindset related to an employer’s obligation to provide health care. What is your organizational attitude on the following statements:

  • Our organization should provide health care benefits to both our employees and their dependents
  • Our organization should provide health care benefits to our employees, but employees should be largely responsible for dependent costs
  • Employees should bear the bulk of future health care cost increases
  • Our organization should provide health care benefits to retirees age 65 and older
  • Good benefits help attract employees
  • Good benefits increase employee retention
  • Good benefits increase employee productivity
  • Good benefits are less important now that health Marketplace coverage is available to employees
  • Dependents who have coverage available to them through their own employer should not be on our plan

The answers to these critical questions are sure to shed light on the health care reform and cost-control strategies that will dominate the benefits world in the coming months. To add to this exploration of potentially shifting beliefs and attitudes, we are also asking employers just who should take responsibility for choosing health plans, benefit coverage levels, choosing physicians/hospitals, managing chronic conditions, establishing health care outcome requirements, and controlling costs. Should it be insurers? Employers? Employees? Physicians? Hospitals? Government? And given all the new stakes, employers are asked to give serious thought to what exactly government’s role should be when it comes to:

  • State and federally-mandated coverage limits
  • Requiring doctors and hospitals to publicly disclose prices
  • Requiring insurers to publicly disclose actual discounted prices paid to providers
  • Mandating quality reporting from hospitals and physicians
  • Allowing U.S. consumers to purchase prescription drugs from foreign countries
  • Restricting patent extensions for brand name drugs
  • Making Medicare available to retirees age 55 to 64
  • Developing a single payer health care system that is paid with taxes

To complete the picture, we are not only asking what the employer’s health care role is or what the government’s role is, but we are also taking a look at employers’ outlook when it comes to health care five years from now.  When employers look into their crystal ball, do they see more cost shifting to employees? Increased high deductible coverage? A surge in managed care plans? Smaller provider networks? Disappearing provider networks? A complete switch to a compensation only system? An end to employer-provided coverage altogether? An increase in voluntary benefits? A complete shift to private insurance exchanges?

The answers to all these questions will be indeed timely—and we encourage all employers to complete the survey before March 10, 2014, in order to get a copy of these landmark national findings.