Drugstore giant Walgreen is joining IBM and a growing number of other companies sending their employees shopping for health insurance on a private health insurance exchange. Walgreen, the parent company of eponymous drug store chain Walgreens, will continue to pay the same contribution it always has, but some 120,000 employees will be able to choose from one of up to 25 options, reports the AP. Another 60,000 employees, many part-time, will remain ineligible for health care, adds Reuters. Walgreen is joining the Aon Hewitt exchange, also used by Sears and Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster), though it will call its own marketplace the "Living Well Benefits Store," reports Forbes.
In a fairly impressive piece of spin, a company rep says Walgreen is actually doing both the employees and America a favor: "I think the only way to drive down costs in the health care space is to have the consumer buying the health care be knowledgeable and educated and understand what they are buying," he says, per the AP. But critics of the approach say private exchanges allow employers to lock in the amount of money they pay, then tell staff to "go buy their own health care" without necessarily agreeing to increase that amount or respond to inflation in the future, Forbes reports. (Read more health insurance exchange stories.)