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Exchange maker: Demand is strong

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Rising costs and complicated new administrative requirements are continuing to increase employer and broker interest in private exchange systems.

Rob Butler, chief executive officer of Maestro Health, a private exchange marketplace, benefits provider and benefits administrator, gave that assessment today in an interview.

Butler, the former president of PayFlex Systems USA Inc., a health savings account (HSA) administrator, started Maestro after Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET) acquired Payflex.

Some have wondered how fast the private exchange market is really growing, given the lack of private exchange financial data from vendors other than Towers Watson & Company (NYSE:TW). 

But Butler said he believes employer CEOs are still asking their human resources managers about whether their companies have a private exchange strategy.

“It’s the hot button right now,” Butler said. “People are seeking us out. We’re having a very, very interesting time.”

See also: Mounting health costs boost private exchange growth

Maestro promotes itself as a company that can offer a flexible, well-integrated exchange system, and it offers its systems to insurers and employers as well as to brokers. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona recently agreed to make the company its exclusive exchange system provider.

Some brokers have suggested that many affected employers are now showing a sudden interest in complying with the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) employee and health coverage offer counting requirements for 2015, and an awareness of the need to send employees, and former employees, 1095-C coverage offer reporting notices, in early 2016.

See also: Lockton: IRS survey may hint at PPACA employer reporting delay

Maestro is getting a significant share of its new business from employers that want health with the PPACA employee counting and reporting requirements, Butler said.

Employer preparedness for the new requirements “is all over the board,” Butler said.

“The larger employers took it more seriously” early on, Butler said.

But he said many employers with fewer than 500 employees are still struggling to understand the new requirements.

Benefits professionals and organizations have been talking about the PPACA Cadillac plan excise tax, which is set to impose a 40 percent tax on the “excess benefits” in what PPACA classifies as high-cost plans for taxable years starting in 2018.

See also: PPACA Cadillac plan tax pie: Hard to slice?

Butler said he hears far more about the Cadillac plan tax from benefits professionals than from employers.

“The employers have not really started to think about 2018,” Butler said.

Many employers are assuming that the results of the upcoming elections could affect how the Cadillac plan tax works, or whether it will continue to exist, Butler said.