Citing compliance costs with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Walgreens on Jan. 1, 2014, will begin making cash payments to its 160,000 affected employees to buy their own health insurance on the Marketplaces instead of providing and managing their benefit program for them. 

Earlier, IBM and Time Warner announced similar plans for retirees.

"You're completely moving away from a paternalistic employer deciding what's best for employees," Paul Fronstin, an economist for the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, told the Wall Street Journal. "Workers don't need their employer anymore for health coverage. They just need the employers' money."