Two large companies--Walgreens and Home Depot--recently announced they're shifting some employees to health insurance exchanges, citing escalating health costs as the primary driver.
"You're completely moving away from a paternalistic employer deciding what's best for employees," Paul Fronstin, an economist for the Employee Benefit Research Institute, told the Wall Street Journal. "Workers don't need their employer anymore for health coverage. They just need the employers' money."
Walgreens, the country's largest drugstore chain, said Wednesday that it will pay a fixed amount for its 160,000 employees to shop and buy health coverage through a private exchange operated by consultant firm Aon Hewitt.
"We will continue to invest in the health of our employees and their dependents while using a marketplace solution that offers a wide variety of plan options that meet the affordability standard of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, Walgreens senior vice president and chief human resources officer, said in a statement.
Among the plans offered on the Walgreens exchange are HMO-style plans with no deductibles and low out-of-pocket costs as well as high-deductible plans with less coverage. Some premiums could be as low as $5 a month.
Just one day later, Home Depot, announced it will shift about 20,000 part-time employees to public exchanges. Those employees, who make up about 5 percent of Home Depot's 340,000 workers, previously were covered through a limited liability medical plan, Bloomberg reported.
The world's largest home improvement retailer said it will still offer health coverage for full-time workers, but their costs will likely increase next year. Home Depot also will continue providing dental, vision, disability and other supplemental coverage for part-time employees.