The use of private health insurance exchanges may boom in the next three years if employer sentiments in the latest survey from the Private Exchange Evaluation Cooperative hold true.

While only 6.4% of survey respondents said their firms currently used a private HIX, interest in private exchanges as an option for their full-time active employees over the next several years remains high and one out of five respondents (20%) indicate they are considering private exchanges as an option for 2016, 41% by 2018.

The online survey of employers' views on health insurance exchanges was conducted in November 2014. There were 446 respondents from a variety of industries representing self-insured and fully-insured employers from businesses of all sizes, from fewer than 500 employees to those with more than 10,000 employees.

Other key findings include:

*Employer commitment to providing medical benefits to employees remains very high with 97% of respondents indicating they were very likely to offer coverage in 2016, up from 77% in last year's survey. Employers also report less interest in public exchanges as options for key workforce segments with 67% saying they are not considering such an approach for part-time employees and 84% not considering for their full-time active employees.

*Cost, cost, and cost: In considering a private exchange for active employees, 98%  of respondents said that the cost of plan options was "somewhat" or "very" important (up 5 points from last year). The "level of fees" was only 1 point behind at 97% (up 3 points from last year).

*Saving money and consumer choice were the top two reasons cited by employers who have already implemented an exchange.

*The increasing interest in private exchanges is not without a number of perceived hurdles, the highest of which were employee readiness (84%), stability of carrier relationships (84%), loss of flexibility in plan design (78%) and loss of control or stewardship (72%).

PEEC executives said the survey is the first national assessment that specifically captures the experience of early adopters of both private exchanges for active employees as well as retirees. PEEC was launched in 2013 by the Midwest Business Group on Health, Northeast Business Group on Health, Pacific Business Group on Health, Employers Business Group, Inc., all independent coalitions representing employer health care interests –and consultancy PwC (not an exchange provider).

The survey's executive summary is available here.

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