Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state’s largest health insurer, launched a private health insurance exchange, giving companies with more than 50 employees another option in seeking to meet new federal guidelines.
Called BlueBenefits Center, employers can send their employees to the exchange, which opens up a broad set of health insurance options, with a wide range of premium, coverage and co-pay options. Typically, company human resource departments, particularly for smaller employers, choose only one or two health insurance plans to offer employees. While those might cover employees’ needs at a high level, the private exchange opens up a broader set of options for employees, while not bogging down the employer with additional costs. Through the BlueBenefits Center, employers can offer up to four different medical plans.
“Employers are moving away from the one-size-fits-all model of health insurance,” said Steve Crist, BCBSNC vice president of group market sales.”They recognize that someone 26 and single has different coverage needs than someone who is 48, married and has kids. With the help of their employer’s financial contribution, employees can use the BlueBenefits Center to choose a plan that fits their needs and their budget.”
Employers set a monthly, annual, or per-paycheck dollar amount that they will contribute toward an employee’s health insurance plan. They then choose up to four medical plans from a menu of 18 options, compliant with the Affordable Care Act, in varying benefit levels. The employees can then go into the portal and purchase the plans they want.
Accenture estimates that participation in private exchanges like BlueBenefits Center will increase from 1 million in 2014 to 40 million by 2018 and, according to Deloitte, some 70 percent of employers with more than 50 employees say they are likely or somewhat likely to use these exchanges to provide health insurance for employees.