Instead of offering one or more options, some companies are turning health insurance shopping over to employees.

A federal rule change last year stoked this new approach. It allows employers to reimburse workers for coverage they bought without paying a tax penalty.

The concept sends employees to individual insurance markets where they can find more choices for coverage. It also protects employers from huge annual cost spikes. But it’s a big change for workers who are used to having their employer give them benefit choices every year.

This new approach — known as an Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement or ICHRA — started with coverage plans for this year. More workers will likely see them offered this fall during their company’s annual sign-up window for 2021 coverage.

Benefits experts say the idea is drawing interest from employers, but they expect the option to grow slowly over the next few years.

Picture Source: Chris Carlson

SOURCE ( TOM MURPHY Associated Press )