Last week, Sears and Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) announced that they were seriously entertaining the idea of doing away with their traditional health insurance programs and opting instead to provide their employees with a heath-coverage allowance.

The two major American companies plan to allow employees to select coverage through an online marketplace, where workers will have the opportunity to browse and purchase various employer-backed health plans.

Company officials say they hope that their plan will help lower insurance premiums, or at bare minimum, keep them from continuing to increase, by forcing health insurance companies to fight for their business.

According to human resources and consulting firm Aon Hewitt, employees will be able to choose from five different, multilevel health plans from five different insurance companies, which will allow employees to not only see the actual costs of various plans, but also make them proactive in deciding what plan works best for them and their families.

While the amount of the health insurance allowance has not yet been made known, Darden Restaurants says it plans to announce the implementation of this select-your-own-insurance plan to its employees as early as November.

Darden Restaurants adds that employees will still provide out-of-pocket contributions to their plans the same as they have in the past and receive relatively the same amount of coverage.

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