In Michigan and throughout the country, more employers of all sizes are thinking seriously about private exchanges for their employees’ health benefits. Recent surveys from Aon Hewitt and the Private Exchange Evaluation Collaborative show that 33 to 45 percent of employers either have or are planning to move their employee benefits to a private exchange in the next few years. The reasons are obvious: Private exchanges offer cost predictability for employers and more choices and control for employees. But every exchange is different. If you’re considering a private exchange, here are five things to keep in mind when searching for the one that’s best for your company. Plan Design Even in small and mid-sized companies, employees have a wide range of health benefit needs and budgets. Ideally, they should be able to choose from a wide-range of coverage options, including medical, dental, vision and prescription drugs plans, as well as wellness programs. Since employees within organizations have varying incomes depending on their role, many appreciate having affordable options to maximize their take-home pay, while others prefer a richer level of coverage. Employee Shopping Experience It’s not enough to give employees a menu and hope they can figure it out. Enrollment should be as simple as shopping online. An exchange should guide employees step-by-step on what they need to consider when choosing their coverage and clearly explain the costs and benefits of different options. The process should be very personalized to that particular employee to ensure they’re paired to the right option. Also, since the demographics of workplaces vary, its important to give employees options for HOW to enroll. For instance, some employees are not web savvy, so having phone support is critical for those situations. Transparent Benefit and Provider Information A private exchange should help employees understand the impact of decisions they make on their benefit dollars. A private exchange should help them understand their employer’s contribution (their allowance) along with the full price tags (not just their contribution) for the benefits they’re considering. By exposing employees to these costs, it helps move them into a ‘shopper’ mentality, encouraging them to weigh the pros and cons of their choices. Year-Round Employee Education and Support Everyone benefits when employees make more informed, healthier choices throughout the year. In addition to easy-to-understand online information, employees and their families also should be able to talk to other experts such as health advocates who can help them understand and use their benefits, direct them to health programs and navigate the complex health care system. Employees who enroll in Consumer Directed Health Plans for the first time, for instance, need this additional support to help them understand the ins and outs to get the most out of these plans throughout the year. Sponsor Reputation and Experience All private exchanges are relatively new, but it’s always a good idea to work with an organization you can trust that has extensive experience in both health insurance and benefits management. GlidePath GlidePath, operated by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, is Michigan’s premier private health exchange solution. Introduced in 2011, GlidePath has experienced five-fold growth over the past several months by providing cost predictability to employers and greater choice to employees. GlidePath combines defined contribution financing with a private exchange platform. Members receive one-on-one support during and after the benefits enrollment process. Coverage for Companies Coverage for Companies, operated by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, is an online private exchange for small groups with up to 50 employees. You determine an amount you'd like to spend on each employee's health insurance coverage. Then, you select a collection of plans to offer your employees. We have HMO and PPO options. Your employees can then shop online and get help finding a plan that fits their needs. For more information or to request a quote, visit BCBSM.com/exchange.
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