Mercer has launched a private benefit exchange. Called Mercer Marketplace and developed by Benefitfocus, the exchange is available to employers with at least 100 employees. It will provide access to a broad array of benefits - both traditional and voluntary - from multiple insurance providers. Additional education tools and support will help employees customize their choices to better fit their needs, according to the company.

In the exchange - which uses cloud-based technology developed by Benefitfocus - employers will be able to determine how much to contribute toward the cost of their benefit program.

In launching this exchange, Mercer joins other companies, large and small, building their own health care exchanges, a key element of President Barack Obama's health reform legislation. For example, in July 2012, the employee benefit consulting arm of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. launched a private insurance exchange platform in partnership with Liazon Corp. that included health, dental, vision, life and disability coverage, among other benefits, from various national and regional insurance providers. Aon Hewitt also launched an exchange.

According to Mercer, 56% of employees are considering a private exchange to pro-vide benefits to their active employees or retirees.

Meanwhile, Mercer says that brokers just need to strategize with their clients around the best way for an employer to offer benefits post-2014. "Now is the time to sit down and say what are the options," says Chris Covill, a national products solution leader with Mercer in Atlanta.

"There is the public exchange, there is the private exchange, there is business as usual. ... It's laying out the strategies an employer wants to consider, [and] at the end of the day it is a financial consideration," he adds.

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