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Public HIX Give Commercial Plans a Run for Their Money

Christopher Cheney, for HealthLeaders Media, February 5, 2014

According to a December 2013 "issue brief" from America's Health Insurance Plans, insurers believe so-called narrow networks are a key factor driving down policy costs in the public exchanges: "To help preserve affordability and high value health care for consumers and employers, health plans are turning to high-performance provider networks designed to reward quality and effectiveness."

One of the more intriguing implications of the PwC research is the possibility that employers may start urging their workers to seek health insurance on the public exchanges.

Feldvebel said the Massachusetts healthcare reform experience indicates employers may be reluctant to push their workers into the public exchange market. "The impact is less than you would think," he said of recent studies on the impact of the public exchange in the Bay State. "Employers continue to offer coverage as they have in the past."

Tiano was equally skeptical. "Employers are going to want to continue to have benefits that make them attractive to [potential workers]," she said. But the healthcare legal expert said employers are watching the public exchanges closely to see whether they can adopt innovations to boost their bottom lines.

"You may see employers moving to private exchanges," Tiano said. "They're similar [to the public exchanges] in that smaller employers can make more offerings to their workers."

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