Employer Mandate Made Insignificant Impact On Enrollment

Obamacare’s employer mandate on large businesses barely had an impact on enrollment in employer-sponsored plans this year, according to a new survey.

Human resources firm Mercer on Tuesday released a survey of 572 employers and found very little change between 2014 and 2015 in the average number of full- and part-time workers getting health coverage through their job.

According to the survey, most companies already met employer mandate requirements, and only 16 percent made changes in 2015 to adhere to the law’s 30-hour work week definition. About a third of the employers responding now cover a higher percentage of employees, but the rest either saw no change or cover fewer workers.

Mercer found a 1.6 percent increase in the total number of workers enrolled in employer-sponsored plans, but that stemmed from a 2.2 percent growth in the size of the workforce rather than changes required by Obamacare.

“While some did see increases, for the most part it seems the newly eligible either had coverage through a parent’s or spouse’s plan or through Medicaid — or are continuing to go bare,” said Tracy Watts, a senior partner at Mercer.

The mandate requires that large employers with at least 50 full-time workers offer health insurance or pay penalties. The Obama administration twice delayed its implementation, but on Jan. 1, the requirement kicked in for companies with at least 100 workers. Those companies must offer insurance to 70 percent of their full-time workforce or pay penalties.

Next year, businesses with 50 to 99 workers will also have to comply.

A full-time worker is defined as someone who works at least 30 hours per week, an element of Obamacare that Republicans have pledged to change to 40 hours. A bill passed by the House earlier this year has stalled in the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle to secure the necessary 60 votes for passage.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary