Many Companies Consider Asking Unhealthy Workers to Use Exchanges

13 May

Many employers are considering asking their sickest workers to purchase private plans next year.

Employers continue to look for ways to maintain a better hold on their employee benefits management, and some are planning on pushing their sickest workers onto the federal or state health insurance exchanges. According to Kaiser Health News, many companies are speaking to benefits consultants about the cost savings of moving unhealthy employees onto the exchanges, as those with chronic illnesses or require expensive services can increase healthcare costs for their employers. 

However, Kaiser reported it is yet unknown how many employers will take this route.

Larry Kocot, visiting fellow at the nonprofit research organization Brookings Institution, told Fox News that even though moving some workers off employer-sponsored health plans is not popular right now, it's a natural option for employers to adopt this type of strategy.  

"I don't think there is a lot of evidence to support this is happening now," Kocot said. "But the requirement is that employers offer affordable, minimum coverage. Some plan designs could make exchange coverage more attractive. Whether it's intentional or not is something to watch."

Fox News reported that under the Affordable Care Act, every health plan needs to cover a certain number of health benefits deemed essential, and employees may have more options for plan prices and services on the exchanges than they would have through their employer-sponsored plans. Employees may then have more control over their own health insurance, such as what types of care they need and how much they can afford to spend.

HR professionals need to be careful, however, as asking some employees but not others to enter the exchanges may be seen as discrimination or as noncompliance with the ACA, as Kaiser reported moving employees to the exchange remains a legal gray area. HR departments may want to consider providing all workers with information on the marketplaces, the benefits they could receive and the costs they would cover for effective employee management.

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