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The Exchanges Are Coming! A Broker’s View

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The Exchanges Are Coming! A Broker’s View

Last month New York State received conditional approval from the federal Government to operate a “state based, health insurance exchange” and it didn’t take long for New York State to get its exchange website up and running. The website is now “live” and has some interesting information on it. You can check it out for yourself here: New York Health Benefit Exchange

Ever since the implementation of Health Care Reform or Obamacare back in 2010, there have been a lot of unanswered questions about what role the Exchanges will play in providing health insurance to consumers and small business owners.  The new website does a pretty good job at answering the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about how the health Exchanges will work. Here are just a few:
“Will the Exchange make coverage more affordable for small businesses?”

Since I pay a small fortune for group health insurance through my business, naturally I was curious if buying my health plan through the exchange would save me money. The website answers this question with a resounding,YES!

The Exchange website claims that consumers and small business owners will save about 5% by buying a health plan through the Exchange.

Trying not to be too cynical here, but considering that health insurance rates in New York and the surrounding tri-state area have risen more than 15% over the last 2 years, saving 5% on my premiums doesn’t get me all that excited – but hey, I guess it’s better than nothing. It will be interesting to see how much insurance rates will go up in the future or if they will stabilize after the exchanges have been operating for a few years.

“A Simpler Way to Offer Employees Health Insurance.”

Although not a question, it’s good to see that there will be some freedom of choice through the exchanges.

Employers and employees will be able to choose from several available health plans. “A business or its employees can each choose a health plan that fits their needs.”  This to me is a great improvement, because the current “one size fits all” health plan mandate from the insurance companies is ridiculous. Currently, most small business owners are forced to choose only one health plan for their employees. This makes many employees and business owners that I work with very unhappy. So, having a choice of several different plans, in the words of Martha Stewart, “is a good thing!”

As a small business owner, how can I get assistance to find the right health plan in the Exchange for my employees?

This is another one of those other nagging questions that I’ve had – as well as several of my associates who are health brokers; “What will be the role of a broker in the Exchanges?” For a while there, many of us thought our jobs were doomed or we would be pushed out of the health insurance business. However the website says that, “Brokers and other assistors will be available to help small businesses make decisions about, and enroll in, health insurance.” I’m still not clear about what an “assistor” is but it was a big relief to see that brokers will still be utilized in selling group health insurance.

The website also goes on to say that sample health plans will be available for viewing in late spring and consumers and small business owners will be able to enroll in the Exchange health plans beginning October 1st 2013. I’m sure many changes will take place between now and October, so I will keep you posted. Overall, to me the Exchanges look like they could be good for consumers and small business owners, but time will tell. My fingers are crossed.