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Private HIX Show the Way to Transformed Benefits

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, January 29, 2014

A test of consumer behavior shows many employees willing to give up healthcare benefits for lower premiums, and ready to spend defined-contribution money on other benefits.

With so much attention focused on the travails of the federal and state health insurance exchanges, it has been easy to overlook a third HIX model: Private health insurance exchanges. They have more or less been operating under the radar and away from the glare of the nightly news.

Yet the way in which these private exchanges are organized and run—by the likes of Aon Hewitt, Mercer, Towers Watson, and Walgreens, as well as insurers such as Aetna, Cigna, and Highmark Health Services—gives me hope that this new-fangled insurance marketplace can actually succeed.

Employers are turning to these private exchanges as a way to (hopefully) reduce their healthcare costs by shifting from a defined benefit to a defined contribution model. Enrollment is estimated at just one million this year but is predicted to increase to 10 million by 2018.

Of course it is much too early to measure any success in terms of lower healthcare costs, but a new survey from Accenture focuses on consumer buying behavior in private HIX (PDF) and provides some food for thought for health plans.

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