‘It’s all about the consumer’Blog added by Kathryn Mayer on July 29, 2014
Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer

Joined: August 16, 2012

Last week, I spent a few days hearing, talking and writing about the private exchanges while attending the Private Health Care Exchanges Conference in Chicago.

During that time, I also got the impression that a lot of brokers didn’t want to hear about it. And it’s a little concerning.

The complaints came fast and furious: They’re nothing new — they’re glorified ben admin programs. Cost savings are elusive. They take too much time. And so on and so on.

I get it, too. They are valid arguments against the whole exchange notion (if the public exchanges are any indication…). But the thing is, maybe it’s not about you. Maybe it’s about consumers.

Listen, we all have to evolve in our careers. Like it or not, my job as a journalist now entails me making best friends with PR people, asking for tips and sources on social media and writing stories on my iPhone. I create content with lists and slideshows because our stats show our readers prefer them over long, in-depth features. It no longer makes sense for me to wander around town looking for tips with a spiral pad and a pencil. And people might look at me funny if I constantly had a cigarette in my mouth …

And here’s what your stats show: Private exchanges are flourishing. Consulting firm Accenture predicted as many as 40 million Americans would get their coverage through private exchanges by 2018. And, according to health communications firm Benfield, about half of mid-sized employers and three-quarters of jumbo employers will consider or will be using a private exchange by 2018.

What is this new movement about? Well, the consumers. That’s at least what Alan Cohen, co-founder of exchange operator Liazon, told me. “In simple terms, an exchange is really a store where people can shop for what they want,” he said.

Personally, I think the biggest argument for private exchanges is simply to get consumers more involved in their health care and their benefits.

I actually think there’s a lot of work to do on education before private exchanges become so widely adopted — and a big part of it comes down to the brokers. You can argue against this notion all you want, but it’s true: Consumers simply don’t understand their benefits. So first-time use in an exchange will be daunting. (Let’s be honest, consumers have a hard time deciding between checking one of two boxes on their annual open enrollment form through work; imagine many, many boxes as part of enrollment via an exchange.)

But in the long run, an exchange market will help increase consumerism and get confused consumers to become aware of their benefits. And that’s gonna help the entire system.

So it’s time to embrace the change — or at least embrace consumerism — because if you don’t, well, then you’ll be on the wrong side of history.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com
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