The private and public exchanges offer employers an opportunity to help manage costs and provide personalized benefits, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution, industry experts say.

“The right exchange will vary by population,” says John Barkett, director of health policy affairs for Towers Watson.

For full-time employees, private exchanges offering group health plans “enable choice while engaging consumers and optimizing the value of the plan,” he told attendees Thursday at a National Business Group on Health conference.

For Medicare-eligible retirees, a Medicare exchange offers individual market plans with concierge-style customer support and sponsorship platforms, ideal for that population, he said, adding that public exchanges could offer individuals the most transition support.

When evaluating exchanges, employers should look at how the plan protects consumers and plan design, but also the consumer experience and ease-of-use, he said, including:

  • How well does it engage consumers?
  • Is there experienced customer support delivery?
  • Are there shopping tools that enable personalization of the plan?
  • Is there an efficient enrollment process?

Despite dire predictions and high health care costs, virtually all large employers (98%) will continue to offer benefits to full-time employers, Barkett said. Despite the employer mandate, most (88%) also will continue to offer benefits for part-timers, as well, he added.

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