This fall more than 100,000 U.S. employees will be enrolling in health benefits through a multi-carrier private health care exchange set up by Aon Hewitt, a human resources firm and benefits administrator.
Aon Hewitt says its exchange includes a full suite of tools that “turns selecting health benefits into a retail shopping experience” for employees.
Individuals in Aon Hewitt’s exchange — named Corporate Exchange– will have access to a range of benefits advisors, including a support team to provide guidance during enrollment and throughout the year, according to the firm, which currently administers health benefits for 20 million people.
Aon Hewitt said that through its exchange, employees and their families will have access to more health, dental and vision benefits options than they would through their traditional employer-sponsored plan.
Benefits in the Corporate Exchange will be offered by nine national and regional carriers, including UnitedHealthcare, Cigna and Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans for 14 million members, including 5 million national account members.
“Private health care exchanges enable employers to offer a wide range of health insurance options so their employees can choose a health care plan that is best suited for them and their families,” said Elizabeth Winsor, chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare National Accounts. “We welcome the opportunity to participate in Aon Hewitt’s groundbreaking new corporate exchange.”
Aon Hewitt believes the exchange model can help lower benefit costs through competition.
“There are examples in every industry, including iTunes, Amazon.com and Orbitz, where the introduction of competition on a retail, consumer level has driven down prices and made the industry more efficient,” said Ken Sperling, Aon Hewitt’s national health exchange strategy leader.
Sperling said the the Aon Hewitt exchange is a “viable alternative for companies searching for solutions that can reduce cost, transfer risk to insurers, empower employees to make smarter health care choices and create a more sustainable health care benefit program.”
Recent research reports show there is growing interest among both employers and employees in corporate exchanges. Aon Hewitt’s 2012 Corporate Health Exchange survey of more than 562 employers found that more than 40 percent of employers expect to participate in a health care exchange in the next three-to-five years.
Another study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates in March 2012 revealed that approximately 41 percent of employer-insured health plan members would use a private health insurance exchange approach if it were available.
The Business Roundtable said it supports options for employers and employees. “This plan is an example of an initiative that can increase health care choice and quality and is the kind of innovation that can really make a difference,” Business Roundtable President John Engler said in a statement.
Other private firms have also launched exchanges. Insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher has partnered with Liazon Corp. to offer the Bright Choices Exchange. Westchester, Ill.-based American Westbrook Insurance announced in February it had launched a national private health insurance exchange.
The federal health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, calls on state governments to set up public exchanges where an estimated 16 million uninsured Americans are expected to qualify for private health coverage at rates subsidized according to income. A number of states have balked at setting up exchanges. The federal government has said it ill run them where states fail to do so.
Source: Aon Hewitt