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Evaluating Private Exchanges

Private Exchanges are here to stay and likely will increase in importance.  There are many new private exchanges cropping up and some have the potential to provide more choice and administrative simplicity.  There may also be improved financial control, budgetary certainty, cost reduction and risk reduction.  However, not all private exchanges deliver on their claims and there are risks.  So what should you look for in a private exchange?  Consider these areas:

Proven technology. If we’ve learned anything about healthcare.gov, we know an established, proven platform already in use with customers is crucial.  Some private exchanges are just being rolled out in 2013 and 2014 and have not established a proven track record.

Mobile Friendly.   Make sure all important functions are mobile-friendly.  Increasingly employees want to do their business on mobile devices!   Whether making enrollment choices or accessing services, mobile friendly administration is more convenient and enhances productivity.

Multiple funding models. Make sure the platform can accommodate all of the funding options and plan types that you need — fully insured, self-funded, health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs), etc.  The ACA increases uncertainty about future cost increases.  You will want to avoid having to make changes to your entire benefits platform just to access more favorable costs under a new funding model

Plan choices. How many medical, dental and vision plans are on the platform and how closely do they match your typical offerings?  Can they accommodate your carriers?  Do they offer ancillary benefits?  Do the carriers bear the full load of compliance?

Decision-making support. How effective are the online and call center support services at enrollment?  What alternatives do they offer for those unable to use the website? Is the call center US-based or offshore?

Employee advocacy services. Enrollment support is key, but then what?  You need a platform that can handle new hires, terminations, status changes and ongoing claims support capable of understanding the intricacies of your plans.

Defined contribution modeling tools. For many, converting to a defined contribution model is complex. Ask to see what options and tools they have to help you make the best decisions.

Benefits accounting services. Having an enrollment platform is one thing.  Reliably transferring data to carriers and payroll platforms is another.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to consider the advice of a benefits advisor who is knowledgeable about private exchanges to understand the different private exchange options and to determine which might best suit your employees’ needs. In addition to providing this advice, an advisor can also make the signing-up process easier for individual employees.  Ask us about private exchange solutions for employers of all sizes.

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