What if you could pick your medical, dental and vision health insurance plans simply by going online? Pittsburgh-based health insurer Highmark and Array Health in Seattle are joining together to create a private exchange aimed at small businesses where you can do just that, according to a story by Nathan Golia at insurancetech.com.
Array Health is a provider of health insurance exchange technology. Highmark is an independent Blue Cross Blue Shield plan.
According to Golia’s story, Highmark and Array have worked out a solution that will help employees figure out what they pay for health insurance through their employer, depending on their needs, while at the same time reducing the healthcare costs of businesses.
Highmark will open an online store with several different plans for small businesses. The insurer’s plan will work with small businesses offering employees a defined contribution. Then the employees will go to a Highmark online store, powered by Array, to select from seven health plans, two dental plans and two vision plans, depending on their needs, he writes.
"Because of cost, many small employers find it difficult to provide employee health insurance," Steven Nelson, senior vp of health services strategy, product and marketing at Highmark, said in a statement, Golia reported. "We believe that if they can offer their employees a fixed dollar amount toward the purchase of insurance, then we can help insure more individuals and the employer can manage long-term health care costs."
The exchange is intended to be offered to employer groups covering 10 to 99 individuals, beginning Jan. 1.
Based on an October survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, president Drew Altman, Ph.D. and CEO said that “Employer confidence in their own ability to control health (care) costs is not high.” He added that “somewhat effective,” the answers chosen by employers to characterize the cost-containment strategies available to them, was underwhelming.
Even more interesting, the study found that “many firms said they don’t have a lot of confidence in increasing employee cost-sharing as a way to decrease costs.” Many firms also offer wellness programs, and slightly more than half think those programs help to lower costs to some degree.
Any way you slice it, the provision of health insurance by employers is a crucial part of choosing to work for a specific firm. And for business owners, it’s just as crucial to get it right.Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves