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More employers considering using private health insurance exchanges

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A growing percentage of employers are contemplating migrating some or all of their group health benefit plan members into private health insurance exchanges by 2018, according to survey results published Thursday.

Forty-five percent of employers polled this year by the Private Exchange Evaluation Collaborative said they already are or have considered using a private insurance exchange to provide health care coverage to their full-time active employees, while between 30% and 37% use or are considering using an exchange to provide benefits for part-time employees and retirees.

Launched in October, the PEEC is a joint effort between New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P., the Employers' Health Coalition, the Midwest Business Group on Health, the Northeast Business Group on Health and the Pacific Business Group on Health.

The collaborative has positioned itself as an independent research group that will provide employers with comprehensive information on leading providers' private health benefits exchanges, including financial models, product offerings, technology and business process capabilities, administrative requirements, and employee support services.

“Private exchanges have the opportunity to gain traction over the next five years as an alternative to traditional employer-sponsored benefit options,” Christopher Goff, CEO and general counsel of the Employers Health Coalition, said in a statement. “However, many of the firms that have served as 'trusted advisers' to employers for benefits strategy and vendor evaluations are now vendors themselves, providing private exchange solutions to employers.”

Sixty-nine percent of employers polled in the survey placed a high premium on the objectivity of advisers they select to help them navigate the burgeoning marketplace for private insurance exchanges — with more than 100 launched in the last few years.

“We've established the collaborative to serve as an independent, unbiased party to assess the marketplace and evaluate private exchange capabilities to meet employer needs and objectives, and the findings in this survey will help us accomplish these goals,” Mr. Goff said.

Among employers that have not yet integrated private exchanges into their benefit strategies, more than 80% said the key barriers preventing them from doing so were marketplace immaturity and uncertainty about the long-term stability of exchange providers and their cost structures.