Major Companies Change Health Plans in Anticipation of ACA Roll Out

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Walgreens located on Rt.1 South, Saugus, Massachusetts USA. Night view. (Anthony92931/Wikipedia Commons)

“If you got health insurance, you like your doctor, if you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan," President Barack Obama proclaimed back in 2009 when he was trying to win support for his then-proposal for health care reform. "No one is talking about taking that away from you,” he added.

It's a promise that was repeated many times. But as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to roll out, some people are finding that their employer-provided health plan is changing, sometimes drastically.

Walgreen’s is the latest and largest company yet to revamp their company-backed health program in anticipation of changes stemming from the ACA.

On Wednesday, the drugstore giant announced that it will provide payments to eligible employees to purchase insurance on a new private health insurance marketplace. The company says the plan will affect 140,000 workers.

"By moving to a corporate exchange, we are able to provide our employees with as many as 25 different health insurance options at a range of costs," Walgreen’s said in a statement provided to The Takeaway. "It’s important to have a variety of options available to our employees so that they can choose one that best meets their particular needs."

Other companies have also started changing their insurance policies to adapt to the changing health care landscape.

Ezekiel Emanuel is the former Obama administration adviser on health care, and Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He joins The Takeaway to discuss the specific changes to company health plans, and whether other large businesses will follow suit.

Below is the full statement from Walgreens:

First, it’s important to know that Walgreens is continuing to provide employer-sponsored healthcare benefits to our employees next year. And we will continue to pay the majority of the cost for our employee healthcare benefits. We believe it’s important to continue providing our employees with coverage because it makes us a more attractive and competitive employer.

Currently, we offer our employees a choice of two healthcare plans. By moving to a corporate exchange, we are able to provide our employees with as many as 25 different health insurance options at a range of costs. It’s important to have a variety of options available to our employees so that they can choose one that best meets their particular needs. We have a very diverse workforce of 240,000 employees across all 50 states, representing virtually every demographic.

Employees will be able to choose an insurance plan that is very similar in coverage and price to what we offer today. Plus, they’ll have options for higher deductible plans along with PPO and HMO options.

We also will continue offering wellness benefits, including financial incentives for participating in healthy activities and having 100 percent of preventive healthcare costs covered.

In addition, we are continuing the amount of the company’s contribution to employee healthcare costs at the same level as it is this year.

Finally, just to be absolutely clear, this corporate health exchange is completely separate from and isn’t connected to the state and federal government public exchanges for individuals.

Guests:

Ezekiel Emanuel

Produced by:

Tyler Adams

Editors:

T.J. Raphael

Comments [2]

RT from Santa Clara, CA

There are plenty of legitimate questions, opportunities and risks to argue about with respect to the ACA.

The action by Walgreens has little to do with any of it. My employer and others in my region have been considering the so-called "private exchange" model for several years, since before the 2008 election. Several features of these exchanges were included in many health care plans since before that time. Depending on circumstances, the ACA may influence plans for using private exchanges in the future but they're not the same as the public exchanges, have different aspects from the public exchanges and aren't managed as the public exchanges are intended to be.

It's surprising that at this late date that WNYC is this clueless.

Sep. 19 2013 03:27 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I got a job at Trader Joe's in order to get health care. Now, they are taking that away from me because of the Affordable Health Care Act. I am hoping that the Affordable Health Care Act will work, but I am nervous about my benefits being taken away, and now also wondering what I am doing working at Trader Joe's for.

Sep. 19 2013 12:49 PM

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