Walgreen CEO Says Employers Want to Offer Health Benefits

Employers want to provide quality health care to attract top talent regardless of the bumpy ride so far for Obamacare, Walgreen Co. (WAG) Chief Executive Officer Gregory Wasson, said.

Walgreen, the biggest U.S. drugstore chain, will move its workers into a private health insurance exchange run by Aon Plc. (AON) for company-subsidized coverage, the Deerfield, Illinois-based company said in September. Consumers are increasingly empowered to make choices about their health care and are focused on wellness programs, Wasson said today at The Year Ahead: 2014, a two-day conference in Chicago hosted by Bloomberg LP.

“We’re going to continue to see large employers want to offer high-quality health insurance,” Wasson said. “The private sector is advancing health care in this country.”

The full effects of the U.S. health overhaul will drive up insurance premiums, spurring smaller employers to give up company-sponsored coverage for their workers and turn to alternatives, former Senator Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said at the conference. The use of private exchanges may explode as a result, he said.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010 created public marketplaces, called exchanges, where Americans can buy insurance. The law seeks to expand health coverage to uninsured Americans and requires everyone have insurance or pay a fine. The debut of a federal website to help people shop for health insurance in 36 states has been riddled with errors, making it difficult for people to sign up.

A private exchange offers a limited number of coverage choices to workers in a similar fashion to the online public marketplaces.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anna Edney in Washington at aedney@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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