EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants was a long time user of Liazon’s private exchange software, but this week launched its own exchange, developed in partnership with Hodges-Mace. Chris Duncan, EPIC’s chief growth officer, discusses the move and why exchanges may not be for everyone.

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

It’s not just an exchange; it’s a platform with services that give us options in terms of how to deploy private exchange strategies both now and in the future. You start out with your ben admin. You can work your way into a full-blown private exchange with call centers, sophisticated modeling and decision support tools, or not — depending on where you are at in your evolution toward private exchanges.

Also see: How transparent are private exchange fees?

What also makes it different is, unlike other exchanges, we don’t force-feed the insurance products into buying solutions. We have a bring-your-own-medical (BYOM) approach because that is 90% of the consultant’s work and that is where most of the value resides. We approach a client on a BYOM basis and then we offer turnkey non-medical products on the exchange.

How do you recruit clients?

Every single client out there is kicking the tires on private exchanges in one way, shape or form because it’s a new sophisticated tool. It’s not so much recruiting clients, it’s actually trying to figure out if a private exchange is right for them and if it will satisfy their needs. I’m of the personal opinion that an exchange is not right for everyone. You really have to start and end with what is the right strategy for the client?

What is your relationship with brokers?

We are a broker and a consultant and the solution we deploy is our own exchange, run in partnership with Hodges-Mace out of Atlanta.

How did 2015 open enrollment compare to 2014?

We just launched our private exchange recently. Prior to that, we were using Liazon primarily for our private exchange. We actually waited to launch our private exchange because we were trying to make it a little bit different than what everybody else was using. We just finished our rollout with most of our people.

Also see: How private exchanges help increase voluntary sales

We had been using Liazon for several years. First, Liazon is a fine company and I think they have a very nice product. The challenge is they also work with many other brokers. The challenge is we are a top-20 broker in the United States and have grown through a lot of acquisitions and have a certain amount of scale. We thought it was more important strategically to have our differentiated products versus most of our competition in the marketplace.

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

I think it is here to stay. And I think it’s also a mainstream tool for brokers and consultants. Private exchange to me is another strategic solution for solving for our clients, large, hairy complex problems. It’s not for everyone, but for many companies it is very viable. It’s no different than where consumer-driven health plans were five, six, seven years ago — and now it’s a mainstream tool that every broker and every consultant routinely pulls. I think when we look back on private exchanges as [soon] as two or three years from now, we will see that phenomenon happen.

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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