|By Bill Toland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The region's biggest health insurer is expanding its "defined contribution" health insurance exchange product line, saying that the future of health insurance is one that moves away from employer-provided plans and toward consumer-selected health benefits.
Partnering with Array Health Solutions, a
The pilot version launched in
"It's almost like going to
"Is it for everybody? We don't know."
But small businesses, which often struggle to afford employee health care benefits, may be willing to take that chance, as the product is geared to provide health cost predictability.
Many experts believe that the era of the "defined-benefit" health plan -- the one you probably have now, under which an employer selects your health coverage, pays for the bulk of it and assumes much of the risk for providing that care -- is giving way to "defined-contribution" plans, under which an employer gives you a fixed amount of cash and lets you buy your own plan.
"The fundamental driver of this shift is the effort by American businesses to reduce their exposure to health-care costs," explained
Already, he said, companies are test driving high-deductible plans, health savings accounts and other medical insurance products that limit a company's payout, and risk exposure.
"The natural next step will be for employers to strictly limit their health-insurance contributions to a set amount of money that workers could use to buy insurance. Companies will thus eliminate their exposure to unexpectedly high health-care costs."
The shift from defined health care benefits to capped contribution in many ways mirrors the shift that has already happened away from defined pension payouts to 401(k) contributions, as companies sought to get out of the pension business.
But other insurers are working on similar products.
Also this year,
Just this week,
On the employer side,
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