A new private exchange is launching that will allow employees at companies with less than 50 lives (which are not required to provide health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act), to buy health insurance using pre-tax dollars.
Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC), the Chicago-based operator of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, launched a private exchange Oct. 7 that is specifically designed for small employer groups of one to 50 employees. It joins the companys two other exchanges under the Blue Directions for Small Business label.
Rick Allegretti, HCSCs vice president for market strategy and business development, says that 80% of small employers with 2-9 employees dont currently offer coverage. So, the exchange presents a way for companies to provide access to coverage for employees using pre-tax dollars, even if the employer continues to make no contribution.
When employees look at plans offered in the exchange, which are only Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, they are also presented a calculator to see if receiving a federal subsidy in the public exchange would lead to cheaper coverage.
Allegretti says HCSC is training brokers on what the best approach is to take with these uninsured employees. Any broker who is contracted with HCSC can sell on this new exchange.
The exchange was also created to help companies that are looking to become compliant with the Affordable Care Act. But small businesses will not be required to switch to this exchange, and Allegretti says a broker will help decide what is best.
Right now, the exchange will only sell BCBS plans, but the company intends to add ancillary in the middle of January. We want to make sure the systems [are] ready to go, Allegretti says. Lets crawl first and make sure the systems are working. We want to make sure the consumer is getting the right touch points.
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