As many brokerages offer a private exchange to their clients, carriers who run their own are working extra hard to educate customers about their offerings, says Lisa Feddema, director, exchange management, Health Care Service Corp. HCSC provides BlueCross Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Texas, Montana, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
What is the structure of your exchange? What makes it different?
Our exchange is very much focused on both engaging the member and decreasing the administrative burden of our employer groups. The concept behind ours is related to education and support of the employee during their open enrollment process. We want to help them pick plans that are right for them and support them through potentially more plan choices than they ever had before. Ideally, we also offer a very transparent approach to the employer contribution so they have an understanding of how much the employer contributes of their benefits and how much money they have to work with to purchase their benefits.
We also are focused on getting some of the administrative burden off the employer for the open enrollment season so they focus on more strategic priorities than answering enrollment questions.
How do you recruit clients?
Recruiting is not the right word. We market our exchange, Blue Directions, as a value-added service we provide our clients. We rely on our sales and account management team and through their broker relationship to educate clients that the offering exists. We have started to be a little bit more proactive to get the message out through other channels. We are finding that the message is diluted when the broker community has a platform on their own. We think the clients need to know about ours, too. We are doing a lot more speaking events. Its an opportunity to help educate the population about the different private exchanges out there and what they need to consider when selecting one.
What is your relationship with brokers?
We dont really have any sort on direct relationships with brokers for our Blue Directions platform. Our carrier relationship with brokers is the more traditional one. We rely on brokers to be trusted advisers and tell their clients about Blue Directions as an opportunity. We dont ask them to endorse it and dont pay them for it. Its really just informational and we hope theyll advocate for us if its the right fit.
How does 2015 open enrollment compare to 2014?
It is significantly higher. Initially, a lot of small-group clients were first movers to our exchange. We had a quite a few midmarket go for January 1. We are hovering at about 12,000 total members and about 30 clients. As a rough estimate we doubled from 1-1-14 to 1-1-15.
Where do you see private HIX fitting in the health care picture moving forward?
It depends on what the definition of private exchange is. In my opinion, private exchanges are leveraging technology to deliver benefits in a different way. Eventually, every employer group will be in some sort of enhanced technology platform to enroll and deliver their benefits package. It is fundamentally important that the health care industry embrace the opportunity technology gives us to do this better. We are a little lagging, in my opinion, compared to other industries. Using technology to get our message out and do our business better is the wave of the future. There is so much interest in it, but its being decelerated a little bit because people are exploring their options and getting educated. Eventually, all employers will find out what a right fit is for them and I think the vast majority will end up using technology in a different way.
Editors 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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