Industry may see more employees buy plans through exchanges

Darden Restaurants, which owns chain restaurants Olive Garden and Red Lobster, is shifting many of its workers to part-time status in an attempt to lessen the reform law's impact on the company's bottom line, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

Although the world's largest casual-dining company is currently only testing the plan in four markets, including central Florida, if it and other large companies decide to transition more employees to part-time status, insurers will be facing a new reality of selling more plans through health insurance exchanges instead of directly to employers.

The reform law requires companies with more than 50 full-time employees, defined as working at least 30 hours per week, offer health insurance to those workers or pay a fine of up to $3,000 per employee. To avoid both providing more expensive health insurance packages--Darden offers "mini-med policies," which the reform law prohibits--and paying the penalty, Darden will limit most of its 185,000 employees to 28 hours a week, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

This part-time experiment is in the early stages, so the company is still analyzing its effect. "We're not at a point where we have results," Bob McAdam, who heads government affairs and community relations for Darden, told the Associated Press.

Darden previously announced it would change how it offers health insurance to its full-time employees, giving them a contribution they can use to buy coverage through a privately-run health insurance exchange, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Orlando Sentinel article
- check out the Dow Jones Newswires article
- see the Associated Press article

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