Private Exchanges

HIX road show: Experts pound pavement ahead of enrollment

by: Bruce Shutan
April 17, 2013
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With private health insurance exchanges already in motion and public exchanges just five months away from enrolling plan participants for 2014, HR and benefit professionals can sure use a crash course on the HIX concept if they’re not already familiar with the details.

The marketplace is keenly aware of this monumental challenge, which has proven to be a new business opportunity for consultants and advisers as well as an ambitious communication challenge for government officials.

Some of the nation’s leading private HIX operators are bringing their respective presentations to clients, while researches and academics also are hitting the road with PowerPoint deckss of their own. In addition, there are now conferences built around this topic.

Paul Fronstin, director of the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s Health Research and Education Program, and one of the nation’s leading HIX experts, chatted up the concept with employers in Dallas, San Francisco and St. Louis and plans stops in Chicago, Boca Raton, Fla, and Marco Island, Fla. “There is a lot of interest in it,” he says, especially as employers seek more aggressive action to tame runaway health care costs.

Of course, it’s yet uncertain how much early traction private exchanges will have in the marketplace. Fronstin expects evolutionary changes, noting that key trends “start with a few early adopters that are willing to go out on a limb and try something untested, with a lot of employers that are interested, but sitting on the sidelines.”

But Eric Grossman, senior partner in the health and benefits business of HIX operator Mercer, is so bullish about the concept that he recently predicted that as much as 25% of employer-sponsored coverage could be available through a private exchange in just a few years.

Details about the Mercer Marketplace have been presented at client seminars in each of the 50 cities across the U.S. where the consulting firm has offices, while most of those areas also feature a comprehensive session or industry specific roundtable. An aggressive online education effort also has been launched through the Mercer/Think infographics blog with an emphasis on visual storytelling. The first group of national, regional and state carriers that have agreed to partner with Mercer are Aetna, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, Health Net, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Anthem Blue Cross of California, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire BlueCross BlueShield, Florida Blue, Florida’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield company.

Towers Watson, which also has its own HIX, is sponsoring a series of presentations by Fortune 500 companies that have already implemented an exchange solution called “Ready for 2014: Road to Exchange Solutions.” These three-hour events are being held in 10 cities, with more in the planning stages.

There are also conferences specializing in this topic. One upcoming event is the First National Health Insurance Exchange Summit May 1-3 at the Crystal City Hyatt in Washington D.C. “Given the aggressive timeline for HIX implementation, states and the federal government are working hard to make strategic policy decisions regarding the model of exchange for each state,” according to a description of the conference.

Employee Benefit News will be hosting, “Helping Employers Dive into the Private Exchange Market,” July 17-18 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago, agenda here.. Another Chicago event slated for later in the year will examine the pros and cons of private health exchanges for self-insured employers. Details will be presented as part of a panel discussion held at the Self-Insurance Institute of America’s 33rd Annual National Education Conference & Expo at the Chicago Sheraton Hotel October 21-23.

The following links to government resources are designed to get employers up to speed:

- Employers & Self-Employed: http://www.healthcare.gov/using-insurance/employers/index.html

- DOL ACA website: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform/

- SBA’s Health Insurance in the Small Business Market: Availability, Coverage, and the Effect of Tax Incentives: http://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/386tot.pdf

- Affordable Insurance Exchanges: Choices, Competition and Clout for Small Businesses: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/07/exchanges07112011c.html

- Small Employer Tax Credits: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/employers/small-employer-tax-credit/index.html

- What’s Changing and When (a helpful timeline): http://www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/

Shutan is a Los Angeles freelance writer.

 

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