Filed Under:Markets, Employee Benefits

Exchange builders head to delivery room

As House Republicans continue to look for ways to use federal budget negotiations to trap the new public exchanges in the womb, the exchange builders have been organizing exchange birth events.

Managers of Covered California, the Golden State's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange, scheduled five public media events for Tuesday, the official exchange program birthday.

The exchange media staff promised that Covered California board members would be available to "mark this historic day" in Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco.

The day before, Covered California staffers drew a large online crowd by holding a live Webcast to show people the exchange enrollment system.

The staffers may have gotten more audience interest in contact information fields and remarks such as, "Now I'll enter their Social Security number" than anyone else will ever get ever again.

Creators of private health insurance exchange programs continued to try to siphon off some of the media frenzy life force from the birth of the PPACA exchange program and use it to get attention for their well-established private exchange programs, which, in many cases, offer a wide range of insurance products, not just health insurance, and offer a much wider range of health insurers and plan options.

Liazon Corp., for example, reported that more than 200 employers have signed up to use its private exchange program already this year, increasing its total employer count to 2,400. 

The public exchanges have been trying to win broker support.

Liazon managers noted that they already have about 300 active broker partners.

PPACA compliance specialists at Mercer talked on a webinar about the need for employers to pay close attention to employees' use of the public exchanges, even if employers can wait until 2015 to comply with PPACA health benefits coverage and benefits reporting rules.

If employers simply let workers who have access to affordable, high-quality health employer-sponsored health benefits lie about lack of benefits to qualify for the new federal tax credits for the uninsured, those workers could end up having to come up with huge amounts of cash to pay the government back for the ill-gotten tax credits, the Mercer PPACA experts warned.

Meanwhile, health producers and their clients had many unanswered questions about the public exchanges.

In New Jersey, for example, consumers and advisors struggled to find out whether the federally run exchange in that state will offer stand-alone dental plans.

Diane Boyle, a vice president at the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), said NAIFA health insurance agent members would simply like a little more certainty and clarity about what the public exchanges will offer and how they'll work.

"Their intent is to still serve their clients, and to serve them in a way that's meaningful," Boyle said.

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