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CFO Survey: Penalties are cheaper than health care

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The CNBC Global CFO Council has weighed in on the new health-care law. The consensus? "It's going to cost us."

CNBC surveyed the council—which collectively manages more than $2 trillion in market capitalization—on anticipated changes to members' company health-care plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

About half responded to our questions, and 55 percent said that over 10 percent of their expected health-care expense increases are due to the health-care law.

Many companies are crunching the numbers to see if the cost of penalties—$2,000 annually for uncovered employees—outweighs that of providing workers with health coverage.

Over 54 percent said it was more cost-effective to pay the penalties. The federal mandate for companies is slated to go into effect in 2015.

(Read more: Obamacare can't make health care cheaper: Langone)

That doesn't mean companies will assume penalties to avoid rising health-care costs. Aside from salaries, benefit packages are one of the best ways to attract talent. So companies looking to snatch up the crème de la crème must stay competitive.

The chief financial officers in our survey echo that.

The overwhelming majority—nearly 82 percent—do not plan to circumvent the law to avoid paying for benefits. Under the ACA, businesses can avoid that by reducing worker hours to less than 30 a week.

(Read more: Why Obamacare could raise your premiums at work)

While uncovered workers have faced technical glitches on the federal health exchange website, as well as confusing processes and plans, companies could have similar headaches soon.

The council said that a lack of clarity from the federal government about the employer mandate is the top challenge in complying with the ACA.

Over 54 percent of the CFOs said that lack of clarity was the greatest challenge to compliance with ACA, while a little over 27 percent said provisions of Obamacare were no more or less difficult to implement than their current plan.

Nearly two-thirds of the CFO Council membership also cited lack of clarity as the reason they were personally opposed to the ACA.

—By Anthony Volastro, CNBC Segment Producer

CNBC Global CFO Council

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