Walgreen Moves to Health Exchanges, Will Others Follow?

Walgreen has becoming the latest large employer to move toward private health insurance exchanges, and it certainly won’t be the last, said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health.

The drug-store chain has decided to end its company-sponsored health insurance plan. Instead, it will pay a stipend to 120,000 current workers to purchase a plan through a private health insurance exchange.

“In a recent survey we just released, we found that 30 percent of employers were thinking about that possibility in 2015,” Darling told “Nightly Business Report.”

“We do have some number who will be doing the same thing in 2014.”

State and federally run health care exchanges are set to open on Oct. 1 as part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

(Read More: Obamacare’s Biggest Test: How Many Enroll?)

The move by companies to private exchanges reflects a shift away from employers covering all health benefits “no matter what it costs” to a model that gives employees more choices, Darling said.

While it helps employers save money, she said it also can be a good thing for workers.

First, Darling said most companies are still committed to providing good health benefits.

“They’re definitely going to continue, most of them, to provide these benefits, especially if they’re in a highly competitive industry, where it’s very hard to attract and hold talent,” she said.

However, as costs have risen, Darling said, questions have been raised about how much to give employees in the form of health benefits or cash wages.

“A lot of people would prefer to have more money and be able to make more choices and not be stuck, necessarily, paying for a super-rich plan that maybe they don’t take advantage of and they don’t want to pay for it,” she said.

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