While more workers are eligible for health insurance from their employers because of new Obamacare rules that extend coverage to anyone who works 30 hours a week or more, few newly eligible employees actually enrolled in their company plans.
The number of full- and part-time workers who buy their health insurance through work increased 1.6 percent from 2014 to 2015, but the size of the workforce increased 2.2 percent, according to a new report by Mercer.
“Employers that had to offer coverage to more employees were braced for a bump in enrollment this year, but they didn’t know how big it would be,” Tracy Watts, a senior partner at Mercer said in a statement. “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.”
More than 80 percent of companies were already in compliance with the law before 2015.
The Mercer report, “Health Care Reform Five Years in,” surveyed 600 companies. It found that the average percentage of eligible employees increased from 87 percent to 88 percent – while the percentage of enrolled employees dropped from 84 percent to 83 percent.
In the food and lodging businesses – sectors most affected by the mandate to offer coverage to part-time workers – the average percentage of eligible employees grew from 57 percent to 60 percent. But the percentage of enrolled employees grew less than one percentage point to 34 percent.
The report noted that some employers took actions to hold down enrollment growth, including decreasing the hours of some employees who worked 30 hours or more a week, or holding new hires to less than 30 hours a week. Very few companies said they cut staff to avoid covering more employees.
The change did hit some employers harder than others: One in 10 companies reported that their percentage of enrolled employees rose by 5 percent or more.
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