How Obamacare will change employer-provided insurance

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Millions of Americans are being informed they're being dropped from their insurance plans because the plans don't meet minimum Obamacare standards, but President Obama so far has stood by his promise that "if you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance."

Insurance plans that existed on the individual market before the passage of the Affordable Care Act were "grandfathered" in, the president and his supporters have argued, and consumers only lost coverage if insurers altered those policies after the law took effect. In that case, Mr. Obama said last week, insurers had to "replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage."

In any event, the administration argues, the promise still applies to the vast majority of people.

"If you're one of the 80 percent of Americans who is insured or covered through an employer plan or through Medicare or Medicaid, or the Veterans' Administration, there is no change for you except for an increase in benefits that everyone receives as a result of the Affordable Care Act," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.

Yet in the years to come, some workers with employer-provided benefits will see their benefits scaled back because of an Obamacare tax. That portion of the law -- known as the "Cadillac tax" -- isn't set to take effect until 2018, but it's already influencing the benefits packages that employers offer.

"Every employer plan since the passage of the health care law has been working to make sure their health care cost trends keep their plans under the 'Cadillac tax,'" Steve Wojcik of the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit that represents large employers, told CBSNews.com.

The administration's argument for the individual market applies to the employer-based market: No one with health insurance should expect to keep their current plan forever.

"The expectation was never there that a plan is going to be set in stone for any length of time," Wojcik said. "Plans should adopt to new evidence and new benefits practices -- they shouldn't be set in stone... We've wanted to do something about health care costs growing out of control."

That said, Wojcik added, the "Cadillac tax" is "bringing more immediacy" to the issue, prompting employers to scale back plans they wouldn't otherwise, "with the 2018 deadline looming."

"The clear expectation was and is that the 'Cadillac tax' -- the tax on high-cost health plans -- will cause those [employers offering] highly generous plans to pare back benefits somewhat so that they won't be subject to the tax," Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explained to CBSNews.com. "It's not going to affect a large number of people to begin with, but it is significant in the longer run in terms of its potential to hold down health care costs."

In 2018, the rule will impose a 40 percent excise tax on employee benefits exceeding $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. In 2013, the average employer-sponsored for individuals cost $5,884 and the average family plan cost $16,351.

The impact of the tax is concerning to labor groups that have fought with employers for good benefits.

"Yes, if you like your plan, you can keep it, unless you have great benefits," Lindsay McLaughlin, legislative director for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, told CBSNews.com.

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