Obamacare Unleashes Benefit Changes

In latest big move, Walgreen sends its 160,000 workers to buy health coverage on private exchange.

Barack Obama wanted to change American health care as we know it. And he is, in ways that go far beyond the goals of the Affordable Care Act.

For weeks, headlines have cataloged the upheaval at private employers: UPS dropping coverage for employed spouses, IBM reworking retiree benefits. Yesterday came the biggest change: Walgreen Co., the largest U.S. drugstore chain, told 160,000 workers they must buy insurance through a private exchange rather than having the company arrange their coverage.

Municipal Benefits

It’s not only businesses reassessing costs. Detroit and Chicago have proposed ending health plans for current or retired municipal workers, since they’ll be able to buy subsidized coverage through the health-care law. The Cleveland Clinic, one of the world’s foremost medical centers, announced yesterday it’s considering layoffs, partly to prepare for cuts in Medicare payments contained in the law.

Aon Jumps

Aon jumped 5.6 percent in New York trading yesterday, after the Walgreen announcement. Insurers fell. Investors are worried their business may suffer in the transition away from traditional benefits, Matthew Borsch, a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst, said in a note to clients.

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