Listen To The Story

Two big companies are making major moves on health insurance and won’t be the last to do so, meaning more changes in how Americans get coverage. IBM and Time Warner are both shifting the health care of their retirees into private health care exchanges.

At IBM alone, about 110 thousand employees will be affected. Instead of getting health insurance through the company, they’ll choose among several plans through a private exchange. And many more American retirees will get their coverage the same way as other companies follow suit.

“I think it’s a tsunami. We’re gonna find virtually all early retirees going into the exchanges,” says J.B. Silvers, a healthcare finance professor at Case Western Reserve University. “A big question, how will the plans on these private exchanges be priced?”

Some retirees could find better deals, especially if they’re relatively healthy. But those who have chronic illnesses or use expensive prescription drugs could wind up paying more over time.

This expansion of private health insurance exchanges comes as public exchanges created by President Obama’s health care overhaul come online. Together, it means Americans will face complicated and important new choices when it comes to their coverage.

Follow Mark Garrison at @GarrisonMark