Home Depot to tap health insurance exchanges for part-timers


Sept 19 (Reuters) - Home Depot Inc is shiftingmedical coverage for part-time workers to new public marketplaceexchanges ahead of new benefits requirements under the U.S.Affordable Care Act, a spokesman said on Thursday.

The world's largest home improvement retail chain announcedits move shortly after a similar announcement from Trader Joe'sCo, a popular privately held grocery chain.

Home Depot's change would affect roughly 20,000 part-timeworkers who previously had chosen the limited liability medicalplan the company offered, spokesman Stephen Holmes said.

After Dec. 31, companies can no longer offer those plansunder the health law, also known as Obamacare.

"We're going to shift them over to the public exchanges,where there are more options," Holmes said.

The public exchanges being set up under the law will allowindividuals to buy government-subsidized healthcare based onincome. Enrollment begins on Oct. 1.

Until now, many restaurants and retailers offered workerslimited liability plans that often provided less than $5,000 incoverage.

Home Depot's plans for part-time workers provided coverageof up to $20,000 depending on the plan and were administered byAetna Inc.

Experts have said exchanges would provide more comprehensivecoverage that may not cost more because government tax creditswill help some workers offset premiums.

Some employers are opting to offer coverage through privatehealth insurance changes.

Walgreen Co, the largest U.S. drugstore, and morethan a dozen other large employers have said they would offertheir employee insurance for 2014 through the Aon HewittCorporate Health Exchange.

Home Depot employs about 340,000 people and will continue tooffer healthcare benefits to full-time employees, who will bepaying more for that coverage next year due to higher healthcarecosts, Holmes said.

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