Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (ACA)
How will implementation of the ACA change NCS health care data? Will NCS data collection be any different from pre-ACA?
The National Compensation Survey (NCS) collects data on the coverage, cost, and provisions of health care plans and other employer-sponsored benefits. The NCS will continue to provide these measures as the Affordable Care Act is implemented over the next few years. It is too early to determine the effect of ACA on published estimates, however, research is underway on how ACA provisions might change some of the data elements NCS collects and produces, including measures of coverage, cost, and provisions.
The NCS previously published a table on incidence of the lifetime maximum provision and the percentile distribution of associated dollar amounts. In response to the ACA's elimination of lifetime maximums, this table is no longer published.
What are grandfathered health care plans and how prevalent are they?
Health insurance plans that were in existence prior to the date ACA was signed into law, March 23, 2010, are eligible for grandfathered status under the ACA, which exempts the plans from certain parts of this health care law. Health plans can maintain their grandfathered status if they do not substantially change the plan provisions.
The NCS collected data regarding the grandfathered status of employer-provided health insurance plans in June 2015 and discontinued collection in August 2016. The NCS determined that the collected data did not meet the criteria for publication.
Does the BLS have any information on the prevalence of the Essential Health benefits that are mentioned in the ACA?
The NCS publishes information on several of the Essential Health benefits in its annual benefit report on the provisions of health care plans such as hospital room and board, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, and extent of coverage for inpatient and outpatient surgery. The BLS also prepared a special report on additional provisions of health care plans www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/sp/selmedbensreport.pdf.
Are monetary penalties collected from employers for not providing adequate coverage tracked? If so, will this be built into the employer cost of benefits data?
Through the ongoing implementation of the ACA, the NCS will continue to research how provisions of the ACA may change some of the data elements the NCS collects. Currently, the NCS captures the employer cost for employee benefits which are reflected in NCS outputs such as the Employment Cost Index (ECI) and the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC). Penalties are not incorporated as part of the employee's compensation package and, as a result, are not collected and factored into the estimates.
Does the BLS have data on non-employer provided health plans such as Medicare/Medicaid or those provided through State and Federal exchanges?
No, the NCS collects data from establishments in private industry and state and local government. Information on non-employer provided health benefits, may be found on such websites like the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey: meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/ and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: www.cms.gov/.
What articles or other information has the BLS published relating to ACA changes, information, and projections?
The BLS has discussed issues pertaining to the potential effects of the ACA in various articles. Some highlights include:
Where can I get additional information on health care and ACA?
Other useful links for information related to the ACA and health benefits include:
GENERAL EMPLOYEE BENEFIT INFORMATION
What types of benefit data does the BLS provide?
The National Compensation Survey (NCS) benefits series is comprised of two annual publications on the incidence and provisions of selected benefits provided by employers to their employees. The data are released in two stages. Initially, data are published on the incidence and key provisions of selected benefit plans and detailed provisions of paid holidays, life insurance plans, and other benefit plans. Employer and employee shares of contributions to medical care premiums and their average amounts are also presented. At a later date, more detailed information on the provisions on health and retirement plans are published.
Detailed provisions of health care and retirement benefit plans are published annually with the focus on a particular benefit rotating between health care, defined benefit, and defined contribution plans. For the most recent complete collection of data on these detailed provisions visit www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/detailedprovisions/home.htm.
For what worker and establishment characteristics are benefit data available?
Data are available by selected worker and establishment characteristics by ownership group. Ownership groups include workers in civilian, private industry, and state and local government. Worker characteristics include broad occupational groups, full-time and part-time employment, union and non-union, and average wage percentile categories. Establishment characteristics include major industry groups, establishment size, and geographic location.
How much has the cost of employer-provided benefits changed in the last 5 years?
Data on employer-provided benefits costs and their changes are available from the BLS Employment Cost Trends.
Does the BLS have estimates on the cost and types of benefits for a specific occupation?
NCS publishes data for a selected number of occupational groups. Some detailed occupational groupings such as protective service workers in private industry and primary, secondary, and special education school teacher occupations in state and local government are also available.
Does the BLS provide projections on benefits?
NCS does not make projections.
Are there micro data available to the public?
NCS benefit micro data are available on a limited basis to researchers for the purpose of conducting valid statistical analyses. For more details and how to apply for access, see www.bls.gov/bls/blsresda.htm.
Does the BLS track the amount of sick leave employees use?
The BLS does not produce data on the use of such benefits. However, the BLS does produce data on availability of sick leave and other disability benefits as part of our benefits survey. Visit the NCS benefits home page for the most recent information.
What percentage of the American work force has access to employer provided childcare?
The NCS benefits survey provides incidence data of employee benefits for private industry and state and local government workers. Additionally, the BLS publishes the incidence of benefits for civilian workers, which includes data from both private industry and state and local government. See the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms for the BLS definition of childcare.
What percentage of workers have access to employer-sponsored benefits extended to unmarried domestic partners?
The NCS benefits survey provides incidence data of employer-sponsored defined benefit joint and survivor disability benefits and health care benefits extended to unmarried domestic partners of the same sex and opposite sex. See the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms for the definition of joint and survivor disability benefits. Also see the tables within the "Unmarried domestic partner benefits: Access" section within www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2016/benefits_other.htm. For additional information on these benefits see the article: Employer-Sponsored Benefits Extended to Domestic Partners.
Is a company mandated to give employees a specific number of paid holidays?
The Fair Labor Standards Act prescribes standards which affect most private and public employees. For more information on paid holidays, see www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/holiday.htm.
Does the BLS have information on mandatory benefits, and when an employee has the right to receive them?
The costs of legally required benefits (workers compensation, Social Security, Federal unemployment and State unemployment) are published as part of the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC) series. The cost trends of these legally required benefits are also included in the benefit series published as part of the Employment Cost Index (ECI). To view the latest benefit breakout go to www.bls.gov/ncs/ect/. For obtaining information on employee rights as they pertain to mandatory benefits, the BLS suggests visiting the Department of Labor Website.
Additional benefits required by State and local laws (such as sick leave and short-term disability) are reflected in the individual benefit components for ECEC & reflected within total benefits within ECI. Additional provisions may be reflected within the benefit data.
Does the BLS have any information on the difference in benefit packages between companies of different sizes?
The NCS benefit surveys provide information by size of establishment. The establishment size is characterized by the number of workers, and broken out into two broad categories 1-99 workers and 100 or more workers and into four additional sub-categories: 1-49 employees; 50-99 employees; 100-499 employees; and 500+ employees. For the availability of leave, insurance, retirement, and other selected benefits by size of establishment, see the most recent data at www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2016/benefits_tab.htm. These data are produced annually.
RETIREMENT BENEFITS INFORMATION
What are frozen retirement plans and how prevalent are they?
Frozen retirement plans are defined benefit plans that are closed to new enrollees and that may limit future benefit accruals for some or all active plan participants. Some plans may no longer allow participants to accrue additional benefits, while others may change the plan's prospective benefit formula in such a way as to limit or cease future benefit accruals for some active participants.
Incidence and provision data on frozen retirement plans are published annually. Please visit www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2016/benefits_retirement.htm for the latest data.
How prevalent are cash account (cash balance) pension plans?
Cash account pension plans are a type of defined benefit plan. Visit the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms for a more detailed definition of this type of plan. Information on the prevalence of this type of defined benefit plan can be found through the following link: defined benefit plans: primary plan formulas.
HEALTH BENEFITS INFORMATION
What are high deductible health plans and how do they differ from traditional health plans?
A high deductible health plan typically has a higher deductible and lower premium than traditional health plans. Visit the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms for a more detailed definition of this type of health plan. Information about high deductible health plans can be found within the High Deductible and Nonhigh Deductible Health Plans section of the linked page.
How much do employees pay for health care?
Data on employee and employer contributions to medical care are available for civilian, private industry, and state and local government workers. For information on employee premiums for single and family coverage, and provisions on deductibles, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums see the most recent data at www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2016/benefits_health.htm.
What information does the NCS collect about Flexible Spending Accounts? Does the NCS capture data regarding the details of how an employer reimburses their employees for valid transactions?
NCS publishes incidence of flexible spending accounts within high deductible health plans. For the latest information from NCS see Summary of tax-favored accounts. The BLS also publishes data on access to flexible benefits. See the "Financial benefits: Access" section within www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2016/benefits_other.htm.
For questions regarding tax implications of Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), visit the Internal Revenue Service website at www.irs.gov.
Are more workers covered by fee-for-service (FFS) plans or Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs)?
According to the most recent data from the BLS surveys of employee benefits, the majority of all workers covered by an employer medical care plan participated in a fee-for-service plans. The data show that participation in FFS and HMO plans has not changed much in recent years. For more information on different types of health care plan types, visit the detailed provisions data at www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/detailedprovisions/2015/ownership/private/health.htm and the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms.
Does the BLS provide information on the detailed provisions of employer-provided health insurance plans?
Yes, the NCS provides comprehensive information on health benefit plans. Under the NCS program, information on the incidence and provision of benefits is published in stages. This information is published with a March reference date each year with data collected from respondents in private industry, and state and local government workers. The published data contains the access to, and participation in, selected benefits such as health care plans and employee shares of contributions to medical care premiums and their average amounts.
A second publication, based on employer documentation of benefit plans, is published annually with more detailed information on basic provisions of health plans. Also, additional provisions of health benefit plans are published on a rotating basis. For the most recent information, see the latest health benefit publications found at www.bls.gov/ebs/#bulletin_details.
Last Modified Date: April 11, 2017