Employer interest in private benefit exchanges remains high, particularly for insurance carrier-sponsored exchanges, according to new research from Deloitte.

Of employers who have not adopted a private exchange, 40% would prefer a private exchange they select to be insurance-carrier sponsored, and 34% say they don’t know or don’t have a preference. That compares with 18% who prefer an independent exchange and 8% who prefer a consultant-sponsored exchange.

That’s quite surprising, says Paul Lambdin, Deloitte’s exchange practice leader. “Three-quarters of those who are yet to convert [to a private exchange] are open to getting an exchange capability from their insurance carrier rather than what we hear in the press so much, a consultant-sponsored exchange,” he says. “This is interesting to me because health plans really have an opportunity.”

Also see: PBE Index: Enrollments pick up

Recalling a recent meeting with employers, consultants and exchange vendors, Lambdin says employers are open to carrier-led exchanges because, to them, it means less risk. “[Employers] get some of the good stuff they see in private exchanges, but don’t have to throw out their carrier relationship and don’t have to consider changing out their producers, which sometimes they would have to do,” he says. “That makes it appealing.”

Growth

Employers continue to express interest in an exchange, the Deloitte research shows, with more than half (51%) of overall survey respondents reporting they are somewhat interested in using a private exchange, 29% saying they are interested and 20% saying they are not interested.

Of those who are interested in an exchange, small- and mid-market employers are the most likely to plan a move to an exchange for full-time employees. Sixty-two percent of employers with 1 to 2,499 employees report their anticipated timeframe of moving to a private exchange is one to two years, compared to 37% of those with more 2,500 employees.

Also see: Why the middle market will drive private exchange growth

For smaller employers, a private exchange makes sense, Lambdin says. For large employers, many of the benefits of private exchange, including benefit administration tools and multiple plans, are already in place, he explains. Those tools are included in “generation 1.0 exchanges,” Lambdin says.

“Large employers have all that stuff. … They are working on population health and long-term bending of the cost curve. There is a higher hurdle to get the average large employer to buy into the value proposition of an exchange,” he adds. “They [want to know], ‘Will an [exchange] fundamentally improve the employee experience even more, and long-term help me control my health care costs?’ That is a higher hurdle than, ‘Can you just give me some of that good stuff?’”

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