Many large companies are determining how they will handle the changes coming in January 2014 with the Affordable Care Act. For a company who employs 50 or more full-time employees that is already offering health care benefits, one option that I am reading about over and over is:
Employers would terminate their current health insurance plan; pay the penalty for each employee, (approx $2,000); and force employees to shop in the state and federal exchanges. While this may seem cheaper, companies need to consider that they will lose their tax deduction for providing health insurance benefits not to mention the consequences on employee morale and recruiting efforts.
Another option that has emerged is to continue to offer health insurance but through a Corporate Exchange instead. According to the Wall Street Journal, both Sears Roebuck and Darden Restaurants (which operates Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other dining establishments) announced in October they had signed on to Aon Hewitt’s Corporate Exchange. Sears has approximately 90,000 employees while Darden has about 45,000 that will be participating in the exchange. Through the Corporate Exchange, not only can an employee pick different insurance coverage, but they can pick different insurance providers. These options are similar to the ones that will be available under the public exchanges, but large companies with more than 100 employees are not eligible to participate in the public exchanges at least until 2017.
Under this option, there is no penalty as the group health plan is still fully compliant with the Affordable Care Act. The employer then decides how much of a subsidy to provide employees to purchase coverage. Ideally, this subsidy provided to employees would be evaluated annually to keep up with the potential increase in cost of coverage. The employee then takes their subsidy and can evaluate various provider options and levels within the exchange and pick the best plan for them. The more exchange participants, the greater the economies of scale. This type of exchange will supposedly keep costs for the employers lower because insurers are forced to compete with one another to attract members in the exchange to their plan. Besides the potential cost savings for the employer, employees are happier under exchanges because they can pick the type and level of insurance that they want. A single person in their 20’s can choose a relatively less expensive plan while someone in their 50’s can opt for more coverage.
This is a novel concept that if it works as Aon plans, will sure to be replicated and remain a viable option for employers.