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More workers to receive benefits through healthcare exchanges

Employee Benefits
by Rita Tansen
More health insurers monitoring consumers' online habits
More health insurers monitoring consumers' online habits

The Affordable Care Act has already fundamentally changed the way in which employers will provide health insurance coverage to their workers in the future, but new data suggests the same may be true of other benefits as well. Employers are increasingly re-evaluating traditional benefits which can be offered through private (health insurance) exchange. These private exchanges (sometimes referred to as "defined contribution healthcare") will allow employers to provide eligible workers with an employer subsidy to purchase policies that comply with ACA and meet the specifications of the state insurance regulators.

According to Accenture, a management consulting company, about 20 percent of all consumers nationwide will receive their health benefits through insurance exchanges within the next three years. By the end of 2018, it is anticipated that about 31 million people will have coverage through these public exchanges, with another 40 million receiving coverage through private ones. However, the private options will likely be less popular to start, with estimates of enrollment showing figures closer to 1 million by 2014. By contrast, there will be about 9 million enrolled in public exchanges at the same time. By 2015, the enrollment on private marketplaces is estimated to balloon to 9 million, a much more significant increase than public ones, which is estimated to see an enrollment rise to 15 million.

Rich Birhanzel, the managing director for Accenture Health Administration Services, believes that part of the reason for this is a general lack of current readiness on the part of consumers to become enrolled in these exchanges, particularly those provided by the private sector. Currently, about 83 percent of consumers say they are unfamiliar with the concept of private exchanges. This is largely because the organizations running private exchanges have typically been more focused on educating employers about the ins and outs of these exchanges, rather than individuals.

According to this report, within five years, though, 56 percent of the entire exchange market will be constituted by customers of private exchanges. That will cover about 27 percent of all consumers who have health insurance through their employers today. Employers looking to enroll in either public or private exchanges may need to carefully evaluate all their options going forward as a means of keeping their costs for providing coverage for workers as low as possible. By doing so, they may be able to both maintain a healthy bottom line and stay within the rules and regulations mandated by the state and federal governments in the future.

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