September 23, 2014 – Walgreen Co.’s director of health, benefits and wellbeing knew his company, like most in the U.S., was on an unsustainable path of increasing health care costs combined with employees who didn’t focus on their wellbeing. But when the company’s senior directors started thinking about moving employee health care offerings to a private exchange, he was adamantly against it.
Eventually going along with it rather than being the only outlier, Thomas Sondergeld Sr. said it’s a decision he has not regretted in the least. In fact, speaking Monday at an employer health care conference in National Harbor, Md., Sondergeld said one concern people raise when talking with him about moving their company to a private exchange is giving up too much control. However, that is a part of the move he has relished. “For many years, I spent too much time in the minutia of running benefits and I couldn’t do any strategy,” he said. “Now all I do is strategy.”
Sondergeld said he previously spent a lot of money “trying to keep disease down so we don’t have to pay for very sick people that come into our workforce. … It’s the conundrum that faces every employer … and it doesn’t work.”
The company’s executives faced three paths to take, he says:
1) continue as is;
2) bring more wellness to their employees (which wouldn’t work, he said, because of continued rising health care costs);
3) or introduce a private exchange, “which became a big discussion because of its ability to help control costs.”
They decided to move to Aon Hewitt’s private exchange offering.
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