Since Healthcare.gov is a direct access portal, brokers are being “squeezed for commissions,” says Daniel Hughes, national account executive, at Softheon.

His Stony Brook, N.Y.-based company recently launched Welltheos, a private exchange that aims to “drastically streamline and simplify the enrollment process for brokers and consumers alike.” The company previously only ran exchange platforms for more than 50 health plans and offered full market integration and direct enrollment. The newly launched exchange serves as an enrollment channel for subsidy eligible consumers enrolling in qualified health plans. It showcases more than 32,158 brand name health insurance products from 249 insurers offered on the federal exchange.

Also see: "ConnectedHealth private exchange sees strong start."

The Welltheos exchange, which launched Nov. 1 at the start of the open enrollment on the federal exchange, is offered at no cost to brokers and offers a strong value proposition to smaller brokers without technology resources, Hughes says. “We can give them the platform at no charge,” he explains.

Softheon is in the process of “blasting [Welltheos] out to as many brokers as possible,” Hughes explains. “We have a database of 450,000 brokers” and are inviting them to test out the product.

When pitching the product to brokers, they are curious what the catch is, he explains. Hughes says there is no catch, other than the fact that Softheon is marketing their current client’s health plans. “We can offer this at no cost to agents because we pass through the cost by increasing enrollment,” in our clients’ plans, he says.

“[Brokers] say ‘Great, sign me up, I will take a look,’” he adds. “We’ve gotten some great feedback so far.”

Future

Looking at the future of private benefit exchanges, Hughes thinks they will continue to grow. “I think as the Affordable Care Act becomes more mature, we will start to see more employer groups and brokerage agencies open private exchanges,” he says.

He also sees growth in brokers selling to the subsidy-eligible population. “We see these exchanges moving more toward private companies,” he adds. “Less and less public involvement and government involvement. Turning the public population of government run websites over to private companies.”

Also see: "CMS public exchange agent hotline falling short of expectations."

It is all about sustainability, he adds, pointing to the numerous failures of ACA CO-OPs. “The government can no longer sustain these exchanges,” he says. 

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