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Manufacturers survey: Affordable Care Act costs, clouds hit hard

Sources: National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C.; CP staff

More than three quarters of respondents to a survey of small, medium and large manufacturers identified rising health care and insurance costs as their primary challenge of 2013.

“Costs and uncertainty are up, and manufacturers’ optimism is down thanks to the health care reform law,” says NAM Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse. “The law weighed heavily on manufacturers all year long—and their concerns are not going away. It is standing in the way of manufacturing growth by seriously limiting investment and job creation.”

More than 90 percent of survey respondents confirmed that their health insurance premiums had increased, and a significant portion have had to boost employee copays (58.6 percent), reduce coverage (27.7 percent), and/or change insurance providers (17.6 percent) to lower their costs. The Affordable Care Act and accompanying uncertainties have had effects that extend well beyond premium payments. When asked about how these uncertainties have impacted their business, nearly one-third of survey respondents said they had lowered their 2014 outlook, and a sizable percentage had reduced employment or stopped hiring (23.1 percent) and/or cut or slowed business investment (20.2 percent).

Manufacturers cite an unfavorable business climate (76.1 percent) as their second most pressing challenge behind the Obamacare law. When asked about federal policies they want to see in 2014, respondents pinpointed as top priorities a) finding ways to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses (76.9 percent); and, b) passing comprehensive tax reform (67.5 percent). In addition, 86.3 percent want the White House and Congress to find a long-term solution to the nation’s budgetary challenges.