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Portfolio > Alternative Investments > Private Equity

Customers satisfied with private exchanges

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As the public exchanges continue to struggle, private exchanges are thriving — including with satisfaction from consumers. That’s the word from private exchange operator Liazon, who surveyed customers to better understand their buying habits.

Three-quarters of customers said they were “satisfied or very satisfied” with the online experience of buying benefits, and 90 percent want many choices when it comes to their plans, as opposed to the “one-size-fits-all of traditional benefits programs.”

The average number of health plans provided to users in Liazon’s exchange is 10, according to company executives.

The survey also found that, for the most part, employees who participate in private exchanges are more engaged in – and aware of – benefits choices, a claim often touted by operators.

The survey found that 63 percent of users reported being more aware of the costs of medical care while 60 percent said they are now more engaged in their health care decisions.

Employees using Liazon’s Bright Choices exchange also have a better understanding of their benefits. More than half, at 58 percent, surveyed said they better understand what their health insurance covers and 53 percent said that they understand their ancillary benefits more clearly.

“It’s a significant shift when an individual is put in charge of choosing his or her benefits and has access to decision support tools and clear explanations of the plans and services,” said Alan Cohen, Liazon co-founder and chief strategy officer. “Educated employees make educated choices.”

As for what they want? Coverage trumps price, employees said. Overall, 53 percent of employees surveyed said they selected their plans because they provided the right level of coverage, while only 23 percent said they selected plans due to low cost.

Still, cost isn’t much of a problem on the exchange: 82 percent of employers surveyed report that benefits costs have remained flat or decreased by moving to the exchange

Liazon opened one of the country’s first private exchange models in 2007. The trend has since exploded: Consulting firm Accenture has  predicted as many as 40 million people would enroll for coverage via private exchanges by 2018. Today, less than 1 million are.

In late November, global consultant Towers Watson bought the Buffalo, N.Y., based business for $215 million.

Phoenix Marketing International conducted the survey online throuhg July and August among 54 employers and 207 employees, all Liazon’s Bright Choices customers.

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