Employers say the Affordable Care Act is driving the costs of their medical plans higher, according to a new survey by accounting firm Cherry Bekaert’s benefits consulting unit.

Cherry Bekaert Benefits Consulting LLC surveyed employers about how the ACA is affecting their business decisions, hiring practices, costs, medical plans and insurance benefits.

CBBC specializes in consultation, implementation and administrative services for group health and welfare plans, including assessing and advising on the impact of the ACA. The survey was initiated to better understand how companies are handling the uncertainty and ever-changing rules created by the ACA.

Approximately 83 percent of the survey respondents said they believe that the ACA will continue to put upward pressure on medical plan costs.  The ACA has also had a significant impact on employers’ hiring practices, according to the survey. One out of four respondents are hiring more part-time workers, with another 14.5 percent considering similar action.

Nearly 25 percent of the respondents indicated they are considering the elimination of employer-sponsored plans.

The survey results contradict the findings of some other researchers that have found the ACA succeeding in slowing the growth of health care costs.

The increasing costs of medical plans are affecting other employer-sponsored benefits, with 25.7 percent of the respondents indicating they have already reduced expenditures or are considering such action on dental, vision and life coverage as a result of the ACA’s impact on medical plan costs, according to the CBBC survey.

Employers polled for the survey believe the ACA will have negative impact on business, with 73 percent of respondents indicating that the ACA will have a negative impact on their profits.

The survey found that employers are taking steps to control the cost of health insurance by either increasing contributions and/or reducing benefit levels. In transferring cost burden to participating employees, the results are contradictory to the stated objectives of the ACA as it will be more difficult and costly for participants to access health care.

More and more employers said they are changing full-time positions to part-time to avoid employer requirements of the law which could negatively impact employee morale, productivity and loyalty.
Employers appear to be frustrated with the complexities, costs and administrative burdens imposed by the ACA and increasingly considering the elimination or reduction of employee benefit plans

The overall perception and trending impact of the law is negative, with the ACA reducing profits, according to the survey respondents, and making it more difficult for businesses to compete.

The complete survey results are available here.