Published on January 24, 2014

Health benefits costs top challenges facing mid-market firms

By Matt Dunning, Crain News Service

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Jan. 24, 2014) — The rising cost of providing employee health benefits remained the most vexing challenge facing mid-market companies at year-end 2013, according to the National Center for the Middle Market.

Fifty-five percent of approximately 1,000 mid-market senior executives polled by the Columbus-based economic research group in the fourth quarter of 2013 said managing their group health insurance costs was “highly challenging.” That was down slightly from 57 percent of executives polled at year-end 2012 but still well ahead of other operational risks, according to the center’s quarterly survey of midsize companies.

Another 34 percent of senior executives said healthcare costs were “somewhat challenging” for their company.

“Almost nine in 10 executives cited the cost of healthcare as somewhat or highly challenging, extending its ranking as the No. 1 concern to more than a year,” researchers wrote in their report summarizing the survey’s findings. “It was the lone concern in which more than half of respondents said the issue was highly challenging.”

In particular, 79 percent of mid-market senior executives said in October that they disapproved of the federal government’s implementation of key provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to the analysis. Two-thirds of respondents said they remain opposed to the law’s “individual mandate,” which requires most adults to enroll in a health insurance plan or pay a penalty.

Among the other leading operational risks mid-market senior executives described as highly challenging for their companies were uncertainty surrounding new government actions, 44 percent: ability to maintain healthy profit margins, 30 percent; and compliance with existing regulations, 28 percent.

This report appeared in Crain’s Business Insurance magazine, a Chicago-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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