Towers Watson Acquires Liazon to Expand Private Benefit Exchange Offerings

A press release issued today by Towers Watson, the global professional services company, announced that it has acquired Liazon Corporation, one of the leaders in developing and delivering private benefit exchanges for active employees.

The release noted that this acquisition, which follows the purchase of Extend Health in June 2012, solidifies Towers Watson’s strength in the private exchange market through its OneExchange solution. Going forward, Towers Watson said it will continue to enhance Liazon’s private exchange solution and serve the needs of Liazon’s broker, consultant and carrier partners, some of which offer the Liazon product under their own brands.

According to the release, Liazon’s online benefit marketplaces are currently distributed through over 400 insurance brokers, including nine of the top 10 national firms, under either the Bright Choices® brand or as a third-party proprietary exchange.

Towers Watson said it plans to continue these relationships based upon their current terms and use the Liazon name in the market with its broker partners. Towers Watson indicated that it will also continue to offer its OneExchange solution, which primarily serves larger employers. The OneExchange and Liazon solutions together will help organizations of all sizes deliver self- and fully insured benefits to both employees as well as pre- and post-65 retirees in new and cost-effective ways, Towers Watson said.

 

 

Trading Access for Price in Healthcare Exchanges

To add a follow up the the previous post about Independence Blue Cross (IBC) offering state exchange consumers “tiered networks,” Fierce Health News is reporting that hospitals are pushing back on limited health exchange networks.

A story on the FierceHealthcare website notes that Seattle Children’s Hospital has sued Washington state’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner, claiming the health insurance exchange will prevent some patients from receiving care at the hospital,

The article also points out that most plans sold through health insurance exchanges limit patient choice of doctors and hospitals, believing consumers will trade provider choice and access for lower premiums.

The questions is, do the people buying these plans know they are giving up access for a lower price, and do they care?

What do you think? Comment below.

See the full story at FierceHealthcare.com

Private Exchanges Create PBM Uncertainty

The featured article in  today’s AIS’s Health Business Daily delves into the  question of what role PBMS will play as employers move to private exchanges.

While the growth of private exchanges — and public exchanges, for that matter — poses some risks to PBMs in terms of disrupting the traditional business relationships PBMs have with employers, there are some possible positives… See AISHealth.com for the full story.

The Rise of the Small Insurer

Yesterday was, in some ways, the grand opening of Obamacare. It’s the day that open enrollment begins for state health exchanges. But several of the nation’s largest health insurers are sitting out the exchanges. And this has created an opportunity for smaller companies to expand their business.

L.A. Care is a health plan provider located on the 10th floor of a high rise in downtown Los Angeles. It only offers plans to low-income individuals through Medicare and Medicaid. But starting today, anyone can buy private insurance form L.A Care.

L.A. Care expects to sign up 20,000 new customers in the first month. And that’s just in L.A. County.

See the full story at MarketPlace.org

 

Insurers Targeting Younger, Healthier Consumers With Mobile

Insurers that are offering plans through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges increasingly are turning to mobile applications to reach younger, healthier consumers, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute reportU.S. News & World Report reports.

The report’s authors suggested that insurers “build out data analytics and mobile strategies” that will target consumers ages 18 to 24. They added that “mobile apps will help customers gain access to important medical and cost information” (Slabodkin, FierceMobileHealthcare, 10/1).

See the full story at ihealthbeat.org.

eHealth Signs Agreement With Intuit to Simplify Health Insurance Enrollment

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA–(Marketwired – Sep 24, 2013) –  eHealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: EHTH), the nation’s leading private online health insurance exchange for individual and family health insurance, today announced that it has entered into a relationship with Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ:INTU) in an effort to expand consumer enrollment in individual and family health insurance plans.

Through the planned integration with Intuit TurboTax®, many of the more than 25 million people projected to use TurboTax will be able to more easily explore their health insurance options using eHealth’s online health insurance marketplace. In addition to major medical coverage, TurboTax users may also be able to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplement plans and stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plans.

See the full story at MarketWired.com

 

More Large Companies Opt To Drop ‘Bare-Bones’ Health Plans

A growing number of large employers are choosing to stop offering their so-called bare-bones or “mini-med” health plans — which typically provide basic, minimum coverage — rather than upgrading the plans to be compliant with the Affordable Care Act’s requirements, the Wall Street Journal reports.

More than 1,200 employers offer such minimum-coverage plans, which must be phased out by Jan. 1. An estimated four million workers are enrolled in the low-cost plans, which are common in low-wage industries and typically limit total benefits to as little as $3,000 a year.

According to the Journal, many companies are opting to shift hundreds — or in some instances, thousands — of employees into private health insurance exchanges or the public marketplaces created under the ACA.

See the full story at CaliforniaHealthLine.org

 

Analyst Sees Private Exchanges Helping Group Insurance Sales

Walgreen Co., the nation’s largest drugstore chain, said last week that it will move its coverage to a private insurance exchange run by the benefits consultant Aon Hewitt.

This approach, called defined contribution health insurance, involves giving employees a set amount of money and then letting them pick their own coverage through a private marketplace or exchange that helps them sort out the choices.

Citi analyst Carl McDonald sees the Walgreen announcement as a positive because of the type of business it could deliver to health insurers. He noted that big employers like Walgreen typically pay their own claims and hire insurers only to administer the policies. That type of coverage produces smaller revenue totals for insurers, as opposed to so-called fully insured plans where the managed care company pays the claims as well.

See the full story at LIfeHealthPro.com

 

Walgreen to Give Workers Payments to Purchase Health Plans

Walgreen Co.and another 17 large employers are turning to a new concept of giving them money to buy health benefits via private online marketplaces known as exchanges.

Aon Hewitt,  the large employee benefits consultancy, said Walgreens will be the largest employer thus far to join its Aon Hewitt Corporate Health Exchange, bringing more than 160,000 eligible employees to such coverage in 2014. Aon Hewitt said it could not yet disclose the others coming into the exchange in 2014.

See the full story at Forbes.com

FAQ: How Is Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Changing?

Employers are raising deductibles, giving workers health savings accounts that look like 401(k) plans, mimicking the health law’s online insurance marketplaces and nudging patients to compare prices and shop around for treatments.

Together the moves could eventually affect far more consumers than the law’s Medicaid expansion or health exchanges aimed at the uninsured and scheduled to open Oct. 1. Here’s a rundown.

See the full story at KaiserHealthNews.org