Walgreens to provide employees with healthcare subsidy while ACA public exchange deadline looms

Walgreens has announced it will provide eligible employees with employer-sponsored health insurance coverage in 2014 through its proprietary “Live Well Benefits Store,” a marketplace that is an outsourced solution through Aon Hewitt Corporate Health Exchange.

The new program allows Walgreens to continue offering health insurance and wellness benefits to its employees as the plan administrator while providing tools and resources that help employees personalize coverage for themselves and their dependents.

“Under this new program, employees will have expanded choices to personalize their health care coverage in a competitive environment, giving our diverse workforce the flexibility they need to meet their health care needs,” said Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, Walgreens’ senior vice president and chief HR officer. “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 [ACA].”

Walgreens anticipates that many of its retirees who are under age 65 and are eligible for company healthcare benefits will see reductions in their healthcare premiums and more plan options as well, according to the company statement. Medicare-eligible retirees will see no changes in 2014.

Walgreens’ contribution toward the cost of healthcare benefits will be at the same level as it was the previous year, with employees choosing a healthcare plan that is personalized to their own individual and family needs. Plan options include three high-deductible health plans, a PPO, and an HMO-style plan.

Reminder to employers: October 1 deadline

As Walgreens’ announcement shows, more and more employers are exploring their private healthcare exchange options. It’s important, however, for employers also to keep in mind their responsibilities related to the public exchange, or “marketplace,” created by the ACA. Under the healthcare reform law, beginning on October 1, most employers must provide current and new employees with a notice informing them about the new public health insurance marketplace and its coverage options.

Health insurance marketplace. The ACA, which was designed to expand access to affordable healthcare coverage, includes new healthcare coverage options for employees and individuals. As of January 1, 2014, individuals and employees of small businesses may purchase health insurance coverage through a new competitive health insurance marketplace that will offer private health insurance policies from multiple carriers. The marketplace offers “one-stop shopping” for consumers to find and compare private health insurance options. Some individuals will be eligible to receive premium tax credits to assist them in purchasing coverage through the marketplace. Open enrollment for healthcare coverage through the marketplace begins on October 1 for plans effective on January 1, 2014.

Marketplaces will vary from state to state and will be administered by either the state itself or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.