Healthy Opportunity? Health Insurance Exchange Planned

A big change in how Americans obtain health insurance will take place over the next several years, and one CUSO here is moving now to help credit unions leverage the shift to create a new revenue stream.

EPL, a technology CUSO owned by 12 CUs across the country, next month will introduce the Credit Union Exchange Blueprint (CUEB), a national private health insurance exchange open to all CU employees and members that will be offered through credit unions. EPL is partnering with Health Partners America here on the effort.

EPL President and CEO Wayne Benson wants credit unions to recognize the magnitude of change that his company believes is coming. Citing statistics from the Congressional Budget Office and McKinsey & Co., Benson said that today 14 million Americans receive healthcare coverage through a group employer plan, 40 million have personal policies, 47 million receive Medicare, 45 million are on Medicaid, and 40 million are uninsured.

“By the end of 2015, because of the Affordable Care Act, it’s expected 185-million Americans will receive health insurance through personal policies,” he said.

The Affordable Care Act stipulates that by 2014 public health insurance exchanges must be in place in each state. A public health insurance exchange is a set of government-regulated and standardized healthcare plans from which individuals can purchase health insurance. Many private health insurance exchanges are being formed or are already in place, noted several sources who spoke with Credit Union Journal.

READ:  Make Use of Drug Rehab Get Rid Of Addiction

‘Ahead of the Game’

“We know there will be a number of other private exchanges, but we feel we are ahead of the game for credit unions. If credit unions can get out in front of this, they can really position themselves as leaders in their communities,” said Benson, who added that the CU philosophy of people helping people fits with the concept of health insurance exchanges.

Some state leagues are also paying attention to private health insurance exchanges, possibly seeking to form exchanges to serve CUs and their members. Scott Simpson, CEO of the Utah CU Association, told Credit Union Journal that a private health insurance exchange contacted him to be part of its board of directors to help establish a cooperative business model for the effort (see related story).

Benson said CUEB will help credit unions several ways-potentially saving money on their own employeehealthcare costs, generating revenue for the CU by offering health insurance to members and sponsor groups, deepening existing relationships and attracting new members, and tying the credit union more closely to the community.

“There is a significant revenue stream for credit unions from this,” said Benson. “There are different financial models we are exploring. But we are planning on an ongoing revenue sharing with credit unions, and as more members use the exchange there will be increased revenue share for each credit union. EPL will make money through a one-time installation charge to the credit union and then a monthly fee.”

READ:  Benefits of Jogging Regularly

Benson believes credit unions that will see the option as less costly but still good coverage for staff will move away from offering coverage to employees through the credit union in favor of CUEB. The Affordable Care Act states that by 2014 businesses with 50 or more employees must offer affordable minimum health insurance coverage or pay penalties. The penalty for not offering coverage is $2,000 per employee. But many will choose the penalty, predicted Benson, as have other analysts who have spoken with CU Journal (Credit Union Journal, Jan. 14), since it may be less expensive than offering insurance.

‘Tremendous Value’

According to Benson, accessibility to care won’t be limited within CUEB, saying contracts have been secured with most of the large health insurance carriers across the U.S. Pricing is competitive, said Benson, without sharing specifics.

“I think CUEB will provide tremendous value. Pricing can get complex, as we are moving into uncharted waters. There will be a lot of change with health insurance moving forward, but we know we will be providing value through the Blueprint.”

With an online portal and call center for individuals to sign up and select coverage, and to learn abouthealthcare reform, CUEB will also offer value through service, said Benson. The EPL chief said service will be in line with what CU members have come to expect, delivered via a 156-person call center staff that will likely be beefed up to meet an expected growing demand, he said.

READ:  Unfavorably susceptible Rhinitis Can be Tackled With Right Preventive Measure

“We will train the call center on the credit union philosophy,” said Benson of the team of employed by Health Partners America.

Fundamental changes are occurring in how employers and employees view health benefits, noted Josh Hilgers, president of Health Partners America. “There is a real disruption that is taking place and will continue take place for some time. For credit unions to be able to provide guidance and assistance in these times is a natural fit. They are trusted advisors and a resource for their communities, this just brings them closer to the people they serve.”