Most large U.S. employers expect to continue providing full-time workers with health insurance benefits after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, according to the latest employer and health care trends study. However, some employers indicated that they might shift some part-time workers and retirees to government insurance exchanges. For the annual study, researchers surveyed more than 500 companies with at least 1,000 employees between November 2012 and January.

Under the ACA, businesses with at least 50 workers beginning in 2014 must pay a penalty of $2,000 per employee if they do not provide affordable coverage to their employees. Employers will not be required to pay for the first 30 workers who are included in the penalty calculation.

According to the study:

  • About 26% of the companies said they are very confident that they will be offering employee health benefits in 10 years, up slightly from 23% in last year’s survey;
  • 60% said it is not at all likely that they will halt full-time employee benefits and direct workers toward exchanges that will provide subsidies to obtain insurance; and
  • 80% said they believe it is highly unlikely that they would direct full-time employees to exchanges that do not provide a subsidy.
  • However, 29% of surveyed companies where at least one-fifth of the workforce is part-time said it is highly likely that they would stop offering health benefits in the next five years.

The study also found that most workers in large companies currently pay 42% more for their health plan coverage, compared with five years ago. Their total out-of-pocket costs — which include premiums — increased to 37%, from 34% in 2011. About 80% of the companies surveyed said they plan to continue increasing workers’ share of their premiums over the next three years.