Yet even with a high-deductible option, in some states the excise tax will be hard to avoid. Critics charge that the flat dollar threshold doesn't take into account regional differences in medical costs, which factor into high insurance rates in many areas of the Northeast, and western states like California and Alaska.
"You can have a very moderate plan in a high-cost area that costs more than someone with a rich plan in a low-cost area," said Marcotte.
The threshold also places an undue burden on older workers, who may need more coverage, O'Brien said. For them, avoiding the Cadillac tax could be virtually impossible.
"You've got to figure out what nobody else has been able to figure out, which is how to get health-care costs at or below the rate of inflation in the economy," O'Brien said. "All the experts haven't figured out how to do that, but that's what workers are being told has to happen for their health plans."