Voluntary business is a well-known tool for brokers to increase their revenue while offering new products. But many employers are hesitant to add these products because of additional administrative burdens they can require. Enter the private health care exchange, says Carlos Ferrera, COO of Solstice Benefits and the Solstice Marketplace. With an exchange, the  burden is gone, he says. 

Who built the technology behind the exchange?

The technology behind our exchange was developed internally.  Solstice developed the Marketplace with the intent to provide access to brokers who can use this unique platform to market and sell health plans and related benefits; manage enrollment and eligibility; and provide single-source billing to their client groups. It enables brokers — who have been impacted by the changes in the health care landscape — to remain competitive and differentiate themselves to clients by offering personalized service.

What is the structure of your exchange? Why makes it different?

The biggest portion of our exchange that is different and unique is it is broker-centric. It provides brokers the ability to either white label or private label the product as their own, and about 3,000 brokers do that. Many exchanges out there are made by big houses, but the typical broker does not have the access or the funds to be able to do that.

Also see: Cost savings on private HIX not ‘sustainable’ in a silo

How do you recruit clients?

It’s mostly through our broker network. We started out as an insurance company so we understand that aspect of the business very well and how brokers are the main funnel of our business. We’ve created something that helps them continue to grow and thrive in the new landscape.

We have several lines of marketing; one of them is to reach out to them. We also have a strong marketing department that uses inbound marketing from across the country for those brokers that we don’t know. It is how [brokers] are going to make more money.

What is your relationship with brokers?

Our relationship is very close both from a concierge service and also as a client or vendor and insurance company. Not only are we providing them a new platform and service but we are also teaching them how to grow their business and what is it they can add to their product line to expand their offerings to their customers and their services.

The majority of the brokers today are looking for additional revenue and additional product that they can provide for either their current customers or new customers. It is especially ancillary business. Ancillary business is the key to their success these days. The concern is, from the customer perspective, that because it’s ancillary business, the HR person typically doesn’t want to get burdened with additional administrative services. That impedes them from being able to implement additional products and additional benefits to their employees.

Because we have what we call single-source billing where it is one invoice for all products: medical, dental, vision, life, etc.,  the HR person can now do one adjustment for an employee. Whether that is add or delete, that gets down-streamed to all the different product lines and all the different carriers. The HR person now has no reason not to add additional voluntary products. It helps from a broker prospective while delivering additional products to the employees.

How did 2015 open enrollment compare to 2014?

It surprisingly exploded. Brokers are continuing to leave the sidelines of the private exchange world and beginning to embrace how this can be useful to them. They are looking for what is the right product for them and how they grow their business. Although they’ve tried a couple of them and are looking at them, they still want that flexibility and ownership that this is their product, this is their group. They want to continue to have that, dare I say, control as to how they can help out and  how they provide that value add to that clients. 

Also see: Vision, hearing care missing from the wellness equation

Where do you see private HIX fitting in the health care game moving forward?

They will continue to grow and eventually I’m sure it will consolidate one way or another. We’ve seen a change of them where they were first created to what they are today, obviously a little bit of competition in the marketplace. People are still learning what the user experience is. Because we created ours with so much flexibility from the broker prospective, the broker can decide what they want their client to have. If you want a client to have full control over something or you want another where the broker wants to maintain the control, either way, our system is flexible. It provides that utility from both prospectives.

Editor’s note: This story is part of an continuing series of one-on-one interviews with private exchange leaders and top decision-makers across the U.S. Know of an exchange expert who should be profiled? Email Brian.Kalish@sourcemedia.com.

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