GOP calls move to private exchanges #brokenpromises

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.


It makes sense for companies

It makes sense for companies to shift the responsibility for managing their employees' health insurance onto the employees. Instead of trying to pack the coverage into a kind of one-size-fits-all plan for every employee in every state, and having in-house benefits specialists on their payroll, they can simply give the money they would pay in premiums to the employees and allow the employees to purchase insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.

As Martha said, I prefer single payer along the lines of Medicare for all, but divorcing health insurance coverage from employment is a step in the right direction. Now, to make sure that insurance premiums paid by individuals are tax deductible!!!


The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Trader Joe's did what you are saying,

Walgreens did not. These are not ACA public exchanges, but instead is a private exchange Walgreens is going to use. That is a major reason I wrote the article. It is confusing, and the Republicans are trying to take advantage of the confusion to discredit the ACA and disrupt its implementation.

The News and Observer has an article about Walgreens and the general move to use of benefits exchanges on today's business page. The Wall Street Journal also had a big article on this trend to use of private insurance benefits exchanges.

Good point about the tax deduction. I had not thought of that issue.

Martha Brock

Protect Your Care NC Protests DHHS

Raleigh News and Observer, today
Under the Dome
Protestors cry shame on NC's hands-off policy on Obamacare

With less than two weeks to go before enrollment begins for subsidized insurance, polls continue to show that a significant portion of the nation's population is ignorant about, or confused by the nation's health care law, formally called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

States that are actively promoting the Affordable Care Act received substantial federal grants for outreach and enrollment. North Carolina declined to cooperate and turned away $27.2 million in federal assistance for promotional activities.

"We're concerned that there's a concerted effort to sabotage its implementation," said Candice Davies of Protect Your CareNC.

Read more here

Martha Brock

"We're concerned that there's a concerted effort to sabotage its