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Private health insurance exchanges see continued growth

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Enrollment in private health insurance exchanges continues to grow, according to a report released Wednesday.

Enrollment in private exchanges has jumped 35% so far in 2016, rising to 8 million employees and their dependents from 6 million during the first quarter of 2015, consultant Accenture L.L.C. reported.

Still, enrollment growth has slowed. For example, between 2014 and 2015, exchange enrollment shot up 100% to 6 million from 3 million. In addition, Accenture last year predicted exchange enrollment would hit 12 million in 2016 compared with actual enrollment of 8 million.

“As administering health benefits becomes increasingly costly and complex, employers will explore new models to reduce cost and meet consumer demand for greater choice and more robust digital experiences,” Rich Birhanzel, managing director of Accenture’s Health Administration Services in Minneapolis, said in a statement.

“The extent to which private exchanges succeed at differentiating themselves and providing their value over traditional benefits delivery plans will ultimately determine their future growth,” Mr. Birhanzel said.

Private exchanges have been promoted as offering advantages to both employers and employees. For employers, the exchange approach allows them to significantly reduce the administrative burden associated with providing coverage to their employees.

For employees, they typically have a much greater choice of health plans compared to when their employers directly offered coverage.

Well-known employers that have, over the last few years, shifted to the exchange approach include Sears Holdings Corp., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., United Parcel Service Inc. and Walgreen Co.