CHICAGO — In a room filled with dozens of brokers during a session Thursday at the Private Health Care Exchanges Conference on how to approach private exchanges, many of them spoke up with the same attitude: What’s the point?
As one audience member said, a previous panel of employers who have adopted them admitted they haven’t saved money, and many of them are just single-carrier exchanges.
Frank Mengert, partner and director of exchange technology, Ebenefit marketplace, had a simple answer.
If brokers don’t embrace it, they will eventually find themselves out of a job.
“In order to remain competitive, brokers need this. It will pick up in the next 12 months,” he said.
Caroline Melson, a private exchange practice leader at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., agreed.
“[Exchanges] is where we’re headed. This is here to stay,” she said. “If you think this is just a fad, you’re going to get left behind.”
Perhaps most importantly, exchanges are what employers want.
“From the employer point of view, there’s a talent war going on. And there are different sets of generations who want different things out of benefits. It’s all about engaging and retaining employees. In an exchange, everyone gets what they want in their own way.”
Consulting firm Accenture predicted as many as 40 million Americans would get their coverage through private exchanges by 2018. And, according to health communications firm Benfield, about half of mid-sized employers and three-quarters of jumbo employers will consider or will be using a private exchange by 2018.
The first step for brokers? Stop being scared.
“So many brokers are afraid of it,” Melson said. “But don’t be. It’s awesome. It’s the best thing I’ve participated in in my insurance career.”