DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Wednesday announced that it will provide more than 160,000 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 Walgreens program provides more health coverage choices and an opportunity for most employees to lower their out-of-pocket healthcare costs next year.
Working with Aon Hewitt, the Walgreens marketplace will offer a wide array of benefit options and carriers for medical, dental, vision, pharmacy and other benefits coverage 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. With up to five carriers in each of the country’s 21 geographic regions, the range of pricing for premiums can be as low as $5 a month or less, depending on the region. These options can be particularly attractive to the 36% of employees who are single and under age 30, Walgreens noted.
The new program also continues Walgreens value-based pharmacy benefit — excluding prescriptions from plan deductibles. “Our experience has been that this approach to pharmacy benefit design is the best way to improve medication adherence and lower overall healthcare costs,” noted Kermit Crawford, Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness.
“Walgreens is moving down a path that shows a commitment to its employees and the desire to offer competitive, cost-effective, flexible benefit choices," commented Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. "Marketplaces similar to Aon Hewitt, while new for active employees in the employer space, offer opportunities to drive more consumerism and consumer engagement," she said. "[And] keeping prescription drugs from the plan deductible is innovative and could help control costs and buy more health, not just buy more health care.”
In addition, 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. The plan members will also continue receiving access to Walgreens Healthcare Clinics for a $5 co-pay.
“Under this new program, employees will have expanded choices to personalize their healthcare coverage in a competitive environment, giving our diverse workforce the flexibility they need to meet their healthcare needs,” stated Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, Walgreens SVP and chief human resources 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.”
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. Medicare-eligible retirees will see no changes in 2014.
The new program also provides an opportunity for Walgreen retirees who weren’t previously eligible for healthcare benefits to participate in affordable plan options through the “Live Well Benefits Store.”
“With continued investment in wellness programs that are an effective means of improving personal health, we are assisting our team members and their families to control the cost of insurance premiums in future years,” Wilson-Thompson said. “Our Walgreens ‘Well Informed’ wellness program, launched in 2010, paid team members approximately $35 million in the last year in incentives and rewards for participation in health risk questionnaires, biometric screenings, healthy activities and tobacco-free counseling services, among other programs.”
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