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U.S. employers expand health benefits coverage under reform

August 03, 2011|By Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times

Nearly 18 months after passage of the national healthcare overhaul, American employers say they are providing health benefits for growing numbers of people as they extend coverage to their workers' adult children, a new survey finds.

The federal healthcare law allows young adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents' health plans.

As a result, employers say they have seen an average 2% increase in insurance enrollments, with some saying the figure has jumped by 5% or more, according to the survey by benefits consulting firm Mercer.

Many employers expect the ranks of their covered employees to grow an additional 2% on average in 2014 as other provisions of the law take effect that require companies to automatically enroll full-time workers, the report found.

The survey of nearly 900 U.S. employers did not put a dollar figure to the cost of the growing enrollments, but Mercer said the expanding levels of coverage are saddling employers with new financial pressures.

"Employers have already been facing average increases in per-employee health benefit costs of about 6% annually for the past six years," Mercer consultant Tracy Watts said in a statement accompanying the survey. "Adding enrollment growth on top of that puts a real strain on their budgets."

duke.helfand@latimes.com

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