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Employers Giving Few Answers on Obamacare, But Will Drop Your Spouse

Stocks in this article: AFL

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With open enrollment only a month away, companies are way behind the curve in explaining to workers how their health care coverage will change Oct. 1.

Aflac (AFL), the Columbus, Ga. insurance provider, says seven out of 10 U.S. companies have yet to communicate health care benefits changes to staffers, with only 9% of U.S. companies being "very prepared" to make the necessary changes to their health care coverage mandated by ACA reform rules.

The firm's latest Open Enrollment Survey also says workers aren't studying how their coverage may change and what options they may have to look at (and live with) come October:

  • 60% of workers "have not begun to educate themselves" on imminent changes to their health care benefits stemming from health care reform.
  • 37% of employees think it will "be more difficult to understand" all of the new data in their health care policy with the changes mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
  • 28% of workers are either "confused, worried or simply unsure" about the change their employers are making to their health care coverage or benefits options due to health care reform.
  • 74% of U.S. employees "sometimes or never understand" everything covered by their insurance policy today.

That most employers expect to see "more gaps in insurance coverage" and "more costs" to employers and employees after Oct. 1 leads to another disturbing trend: Companies and organizations are dropping health benefits for employee spouses, further adding to angst among workers over the ACA. Just this month, United Parcel Service (UPS) and the University of Virginia shed spousal coverage due to the feared higher costs of health insurance coverage.

UVA says health care reform will add $7.3 million to the university's health care coverage bill for its 13,600 employees next year. That means "major changes" for university employees.

"The modified plan will provide new options and reward those who participate in wellness programs," UVA Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Susan Carkeek said in a press release last week. "But we must make adjustments or face millions of dollars in rising costs, fees and taxes that would be passed along to employees."

Those issues are mounting at a time most companies and employees are struggling to figure out what the ACA means to them.

"At the heart of this issue is the fact that many workers will be blindsided this open enrollment season because we know they already struggle with understanding their insurance policies today, and in covering the high out-of-pocket costs from gaps in their current coverage," says Michael Zuna, Aflac's executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "Over the next few months, these challenges will be exacerbated as employees may be more confused by changes in their policies, and face greater gaps in their health insurance coverage leaving them at risk."

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