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Mercer launches private health insurance exchange for employees

Mercer Private Health Insurance Exchange
Mercer's new private health insurance exchange, Mercer Marketplace, will allow employers to decide how much they want to contribute toward coverage, with employees using the premium contributions to purchase coverage through the exchange.

Mercer L.L.C. is launching a new health insurance exchange that will enable employers with 100 or more employees to offer employees a wide array of plans offered by participating insurers.

Through the exchange, called Mercer Marketplace, employers can decide, for example, how much they want to contribute toward coverage, with employees using the premium contributions to purchase coverage through the exchange.

For example, an employer could design its program so that if the exchange plan selected by an employee costs less than the employer's premium contribution, the difference could be transferred to a flexible spending account or health savings account to pay for uncovered expenses, such as those that fall under a plan deductible.

Compared with the traditional way employers have offered coverage. “Employees will have access to a broader array of benefits, as well as the ability to tailor those benefits to their particular needs, with the necessary support to make appropriate decisions,” Mercer said in a statement.

Mercer exchange staffers, for example, will assist employees during open enrollment and also will offer a call center throughout the year to answer questions.

The exchange will be available for open enrollment this fall, with the first policies effective Jan. 1, 2014.

The launch of Mercer's exchange comes at time of growing employer interest in private health insurance exchanges as a way to broaden plan choices available to employees and retirees, reduce employers' administrative burdens, and make their own costs more predictable.

“Mercer research indicates that 56% of employers are considering a private exchange to provide benefits to their active employees or retirees,” David Rahill, Mercer's New York-based president for health benefits, said in a statement.

In November, Mercer launched a health insurance exchange for Medicare-eligible retirees.

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