The Energy and Commerce Committee of the US House of Representatives sends out frequent press releases. Committee Member Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC2) often shares info from the Committee, as she did on the local evening news in Raleigh tonight.
Today the Committee issued a release that implied that the move by Walgreens to change how it provides health benefits to its employees was in response to "Obamacare" implementation. The hashtag #BrokenPromises was included in the release.
While it is still too early to fully evaluate whether the change by Walgreens and other large employers will be positive or negative for employees long-term, it is certain the slant of the Committee's press release stretches the truth. Here is a story from USA Today on the issue.
Walgreens' announcement that it will send its workers to a private health insurance exchange to buy their own plans is a sign of the times that isn't going away.
And that may be good news for consumers, though it's too soon to tell, experts say.
These private exchanges, which have only existed for about a year, are run by outside benefits companies and typically offer more insurance choices than those offered by employers. Employers contribute a set amount and employees choose which plan best suits their needs.
The Walgreens exchange, announced Wednesday with benefits company Aon Hewitt, is similar to the state exchanges required under the Affordable Care Act. In those exchanges or marketplaces, uninsured Americans will buy health insurance plans on their own that are often subsidized by the federal government. In this case, Walgreen provides the financial assistance...
The unanswered question is whether or not the benefits in the private exchange are comparable to or better than what employees had in a private benefit plan. I prefer breaking the link between employment and healthcare that grew out of wage and price controls in the US during WWII. I prefer Medicare for All or another form of single payer, but I also realize that passing that in the US in 2010 was impossible.
It is important that word get out that Walgreens and other large employers are not responding only to the implementation of the ACA and these exchanges are run by private corporations; they are not part of the public exchanges being created under healthcare reform.
Walgreens joins several other large employers in the move toward private insurance exchanges. These include Time Warner, International Business Machines (IBM) and Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart.
"This is an irreversible trend from defined-benefit to defined-contribution employer-based health coverage," says Wendell Potter, a former spokesman for Cigna insurance, who is now an industry watchdog. "It is comparable to the move several years ago from pensions to 401(k)s."
Walgreen said its employees will be given the same amount of money to buy insurance on a private exchange run by benefits company Aon Hewitt as it contributes to their plans now.
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