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Employers Weigh Risks, Benefits of Private Exchanges

Lena J. Weiner, for HealthLeaders Media, July 28, 2014

One advantage of adopting a private health exchange is that it takes the responsibility of administering health insurance benefits off of HR's plate completely. But there's more to know before making the leap.

One of the many questions surrounding healthcare reform is how the introduction of private health insurance exchanges and state health insurance exchanges—could affect how—and eventually whether—employers offer health insurance coverage to employees.

HR departments face the age-old challenge of keeping health insurance premiums low and benefits offerings competitive. That hasn't changed.

But research indicates that as much as one quarter of American employers is considering moving benefits to a private health exchange within the next three to five years.

Meantime, the number of consumers covered under a private health exchange has grown from zero a year ago to three million today, and it's estimated that 18% of the US population will hold such coverage by 2017.

One of the greatest advantages of adopting a private health exchange is that it takes the responsibility of administering the health insurance benefits off of HR's plate completely. Many consumers also like being able to choose their own coverage and the opportunity to compare different plans in a retail-like environment.

This shifts the responsibility of understanding those benefits to the employee, however, which has potential to end badly, should the employee not thoroughly understand all the options, costs, and risks.

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