Obamacare's "Cadillac tax" doesn't kick in until 2018, but that isn't stopping companies from worrying about it now—and taking steps to avoid it later.
Nearly 3 out of 4 companies polled in a new survey by employee benefits consulting firm Towers Watson said they're either "somewhat" or "very" concerned they will get whacked with that hefty tax targeted at high-cost health plans, either because of what those plans already cost or where they are headed.
Forty-three percent of those mid- and large-sized companies said that avoiding the Cadillac tax is "the top" priority for their health-care strategy in 2015, according to the survey.
That concern is accelerating an already strong trend toward having workers foot a greater share of their overall health-care costs in the forms of higher deductibles, copayments and coinsurance charges—whose dollar amounts are not factored in when calculating the tax.
More companies are also considering other cost-saving measures, such as encouraging use of telemedicine services and giving employees incentives to go to certain medical providers.
"Plan design is definitely being influenced" by Cadillac concerns, said Randall Abbott, a senior consultant at Towers Watson. He added the companies that aren't worried about the Cadillac tax should be.
While 61 percent of large employers questioned by the same firm in another survey said they expected to be liable for the tax, the actual number that will be affected is way higher.