Even companies who have no interest in getting involved with a public health care exchange for active employees might help steer their pre-65 retirees toward the marketplace, experts with Fidelity Investments said Thursday. At a sit-down discussion in Washington, Brad Kimler, head of Fidelity’s benefits consulting team, and Sunit Patel, its chief health care actuary, said their business is seeing intriguing shifts under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“In the benefit space right now, we’re really busy,” Kimler said. “And it’s kind of an exciting time for a consulting firm because a lot of the stuff we’re doing is different than from the last five or 10 years.” 

Specifically about the exchanges, Kimler said “the market’s not mature enough yet” for most employers to make a decision. Patel agreed, saying Fidelity’s clients are mostly larger than those who will jump into the marketplace too. 

“We work primarily with large employers, say 1,000 lives up to 200,000 or more,” Patel said. “They’re asking us to think about what the implications of a public exchange might be, but they’re not really moving to consider something for 2014, at least for active employees. They are thinking about their pre-65 retirees …We definitely see more interest in the exchanges from that perspective.” 

Patel said no one should expect benefits where there currently are none: “I think the big play is going to be helping those individuals get the government subsidy quite frankly.” But, after the PPACA exchanges have been around for a full year, even large employers may begin to dip in certain populations by “1/1/15 at the earliest. “ 

Kimler pointed out that “products will vary greatly from state to state,” but if they play out as expected, some could indeed see better deals than are currently offered. 

“Now the pre-65 retirees, because most companies don’t subsidize that today, so those people that retire early, they’re pretty much on their own,” Kimler said. “The public exchanges are going to look great for those people, and we think they’re actually going to be really competitive for them because of the rules around how you can set the rates in the exchanges – they compress the bands.” 

“It’s crazy,” he added, “but it’s going to be really good.” 

Read Tuesday’s inBrief to find out what Fidelity’s experts had to say about forthcoming shifts in retirement savings.

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