Employers Offer Buffet Of Health Care Coverage Choices -- But With Limits

Some companies are offering employees a set amount to spend during the next open enrollment period for health insurance and making the employees choose coverage themselves -- instead of offering one or two plans to them.

The Wall Street Journal: Some Firms' Workers Will Choose From Array Of Benefits
Is health insurance just the beginning? A handful of employers may go even farther than Sears Holdings Corp. and Darden Restaurants Inc., which plan to give workers a set sum of money next year to use in choosing among health plans (Mathews, 9/27).

Chicago Sun-Times: Sears To Overhaul Health Insurance Benefits
Sears Holdings Corp. and Aon P.L.C. are radically shifting the way their employees choose their health care coverage -- letting employees decide their level of coverage and how much of their employer’s contribution to spend. Employees will go to an online Web portal to make their selections, starting Jan. 1. More companies are expected to adopt the model as health care reform gets under way and as they face higher health care coverage expenses as long as they run their own medical insurance programs (Guy and Knowles, 9/27).

In the meantime, a report says employer coverage is declining as government health coverage increases --

CQ HealthBeat: For U.S. Workers, Employment-Based Health Insurance Continues To Decline, Report Says
When it comes to health insurance coverage for those under 65 in the United States, research released on Thursday shows the trends are like two trains rushing past one another: Coverage in public programs is growing, while traditional private insurance through employers is contracting. That will continue, predicts a report written by Paul Fronstin, of the nonpartisan Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI), who dove deep into recently released census numbers. "Until the economy gains enough strength to have a substantial impact on the labor market, a rebound in employment-based coverage is unlikely," the report said (Norman, 9/27).

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