Survey reflects commitment to offer health care coverage

Fully 80 percent of small businesses  in Colorado that offer employee health plans remain as committed to providing benefits as they were before federal health care reforms were implemented, according to the latest results of an annual survey.

But small business owners also reported increasing costs and regulation along with uncertainty.

“Colorado small businesses seem to be saying that they are doing everything they can to continue offering insurance because it is important to their employees. But at the same time they are running out of options to control their health care costs under the mandates of the (Affordable Care Act),” said Karl Weiss, president of Market Perceptions & Healthcare Research, which conducted the survey for Delta Dental of Colorado.

A total of 300 owners and health benefits decision makers at businesses with five to 100 employees responded to the survey.

While 80 percent of those who responded to the survey said their commitment to benefits remains unchanged, 10 percent said their commitment has either increased or decreased. Meanwhile, 96 percent said employee benefits will remain as or more important for recruiting and retaining talent in the future compared to today. Employers expressed the same level of commitment to offering dental benefits.

At the same time, 45 percent of those responding to the survey said the Affordable Care Act has affected employee health care benefits a “great deal” or “moderate” amount, with most citing increased costs as the biggest effect.

More than 30 percent of small businesses reported changing health plans or insurance carriers in the past year, with nearly 70 percent of businesses shifting more costs to employees.

But nearly 75 percent of businesses plan to keep their current carriers for the upcoming year, up from 65 percent in 2014.

The findings come on the heels of a Colorado Health Institute report showing 12 percent fewer employees of Colorado small businesses were covered under employee-sponsored plans in 2015 than two years earlier, an indication businesses shifted workers to obtain care on their own.

“We have one of the healthiest work forces in the nation, and health coverage is a key part of maintaining that competitive advantage,” said Kelly Brough, president and chief executive officer of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and a board member of Delta Dental. “The ongoing challenge faced by the public, private and non-profit sectors is to ensure our employers and employees can afford this coverage.”