Employers remain unclear about the benefits and drawbacks of switching their health plans to a private exchange, but the majority of those that will evaluate exchange vendors in the future plan to seek guidance from a benefit adviser.

More than 40% of large employers surveyed by Chicago, Ill.-based benefit brokerage Pacific Resources said they would consult a benefit adviser to evaluate exchange vendors, while 24.5% said they would perform the evaluation using in-house staff and 34% said they have not yet discussed how they would approach an evaluation of exchange vendors.

See related story: Employers take wait-and-see approach to private exchanges

The employers’ want for assistance from a trusted adviser is not surprising, considering nearly half (49%) of the 58 large employers that responded to the survey, mostly Fortune 1,000 companies, say they are not confident or unsure that private exchanges will provide a viable alternative to current methods of providing health insurance to employees.

“The survey shows a significant amount of uncertainty and hesitancy among the nation’s largest employers with regards to making decisions about private exchanges,” says Jody Hunter, vice president of Pacific Resources.

“For large employers, it will be critical to determine, at some point, whether moving active employee health coverage to a private exchange is the right move for their organization and its plan participants,” adds Paul Rogers, president and COO of Pacific Resources. “This is a complex decision about a new benefits strategy that is still evolving and the survey results tell us that, right now, most large employers are not ready to make that decision.”

Still, a significant majority of the employers (80%) view their employer-sponsored benefits as a strategic asset for attracting, recruiting and retaining employees and an integral part of their employee engagement and productivity strategy. Seventy-five percent of the employers surveyed said they are fully committed to providing an array of employer-sponsored benefits as a part of their total rewards program and will continue to look at potential tactics to manage the costs associated with their benefits plans including exchanges, wellness programs and other incentives, the survey found.

“Plan sponsors are fully committed to providing an array of cost-effective benefits and need to understand the purpose and mechanics of this emerging benefits strategy in order to evaluate whether it provides opportunities for better or more efficient health coverage as part of their total rewards program,” Hunter adds.

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