The rising cost of providing employee health benefits remained the most vexing challenge facing mid-market companies at the end of 2013, according to a survey released Wednesday by the National Center for the Middle Market.
Fifty-five percent of approximately 1,000 mid-market senior executives polled by the Columbus, Ohio-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% of executives polled at the end of 2012 but still well ahead of other operational risks, according to the center's quarterly survey of midsize companies.
Another 34% of senior executives said health care costs were “somewhat challenging” for their company.
“Almost nine in 10 executives cited the cost of health care 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.”
Individual mandate opposed
In particular, 79% 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%: ability to maintain healthy profit margins, 30%; and compliance with existing regulations, 28%.