New competition increases need for private exchanges

In the old days, agents and customers met face to face to select the most appropriate coverage for the client’s family based on the client’s budget. But this isn’t the old days.

Health reform – like it or not – has forever changed the way people buy health insurance. Last fall, the government introduced a technology solution, which of course caught the attention of several big technology companies, and on January 1st the government started requiring most people to buy health insurance, which caught the attention of companies that sell to lots of people.

Here’s what we’re talking about:

An article in yesterday’s Washington Post announced that Sam’s Club will be launching a private exchange for small employers. This follows a decision by Costco, one of its major competitors, to offer a private insurance exchange to its individual shoppers and a decision by Wal-Mart, its sister company, to provide in-store assistance to help shoppers enroll in health insurance plans. Collectively, these three companies come into contact with a lot of people.

Some of the big technology firms may also be joining the fun. According to BenefitsPro.com, a recent study found that many Americans would be just fine purchasing their health insurance online from either Amazon.com or Google. In fact, the report finds that “consumers were almost as likely to trust a large retailer or digitally enabled company such as Google or Amazon for health services as they were to trust an insurance company.”

What this means is that HPA has been right all along – private exchanges are the wave of the future, both for group and individual health insurance policies. And private exchanges are catching on even faster than most people expected, despite the fact that fewer employers have dropped their coverage at this point than some originally anticipated. Regardless of what employers decide to do, there are millions of uninsured people out there, many of whom qualify for tax credits and subsidies, and that’s what has big retailers scrambling to offer a solution. HPA’s private exchange gives brokers an opportunity to compete with the big guys while surpassing most of the traditional competitors. If you don’t yet have your solution for the upcoming open enrollment period, it’s not too late – but there’s also no time to waste.

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