Open enrollment: Sears and Darden change insurance plan delivery

Filed Under: Costs, Health plans, Patients

Two big employers have announced that they will now change the way they help employees with health insurance: instead of finding and financing that insurance, they will give employees a fixed sum of money and let them shop for their own insurance, writes Anna Wilde Mathews in The Wall Street Journal.

The two employers — Sears and Darden Restaurants, parent of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants — would not say how much money they are giving their employees. People with families will receive more than single people, the story says.  Both companies described the move as a way to ” put more control over health benefits in the hands of employees.”

She writes: “On average, U.S. employers and workers are estimated to spend $15,475 in annual premiums for health insurance this year for a worker with family coverage, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust. The average employee pays about 28% of that amount and the employer picks up the balance.”

It’s a sign of the times: as employers find themselves paying more, they look for ways to put more control (read: cost) into the hands of employees. It’s also a logical continuation of the ongoing debate about the political wisdom of employer-supplied health care. And it’s representative of yet another change in the marketplace: people need to know more about the costs of health care, be it insurance premiums, copays, or charges for medical treatment.