United Benefit Advisors’ said Tuesday its private exchange for small employers, called benefitbay, will open in early December for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014. It will be available for members with clients that have less than 50 lives.

“Even though smaller companies with less than 50 employees are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s ‘employer mandate’ — a requirement taking effect Jan. 1, 2015 that dictates employers must offer insurance or pay a penalty — employers are looking for an economical way to provide good benefits for their employees as a way to attract and retain talent,” says Thom Mangan, chief executive officer of UBA and EBA Advisory Board member.

The update comes just days after the group launched its private exchange for members with larger employer clients on Nov. 1. That exchange, called Benefits Passport, is yet another announcement from a broker group this year, with Benefit Advisors Network most recently partnering with Liazon’s Bright Choices exchange.

 “It’s a game changer,” says Mangan about feedback he’s gotten from brokerage members so far. “It completely differentiates them with others who have a private label with Liazon — we actually have a private exchange that’s proprietary to UBA.”

Mangan explains that the group was able to build its own exchange using the technology allowed through their partner, Hanna Global Solutions, a Concord-Calif.-based benefits company. UBA is defining large group as more than 50 employees and coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2014. The carriers available include Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross “and more,” according to a UBA statement, though Mangan says Hanna has relationships with most carriers. Consistent with other private exchanges, UBA’s will offer major medical/pharmacy as well as voluntary, dental, vision, life, disability and critical illness.

“The number of prospects we have so far is through the roof … over 50 different employers interested,” he says. “[The exchange] is really different than other ones where they drive everyone [with questions] to a website — ours drives people back to a live person in San Francisco.”

The exchange that BAN joined, Bright Choices, is an existing online benefits store.

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