Buck Consultants is the latest benefit and consulting firm to form a private exchange. The move aims to reduce employer uncertainty about 2014 by reducing costs and increasing employee health care options. The exchange, called RightOpt, will be available for fall 2013 enrollment in conjunction with the open enrollment time period for public exchanges. Buck’s exchange is an option for employers with 3,000 employees or more and allows for self-funded or fully employer-funded plans.

“We’re trying to drive costs out of the health care delivery system and that seems to resonate with all employers. Employers don’t seem to want to fully exit,” says Sherri Bockhorst, principal and leader, Buck Health Exchange Solutions. She adds that the company’s main goals are decreasing health care costs and increasing worker productivity.

Buck’s option will allow employers with a large network to offer employees different providers based on the metropolitan area where each employee resides. Buck expects this will allow for deeper discounts for each individual. They have four carriers signed on for 2014 but are not revealing what the names at this time. Bockhorst says that information may be available in the coming months.

“It’s resonated so far from the retail industry to manufacturing companies with union populations. It’s been a little surprising,” Bockhorst says about the potential client base so far. She says the company has signed on two employers already and will provide health care coverage for a total of 120,000 benefit eligible employees between the two. She says the exchange’s Jan. 1, 2014 start date has the capacity to serve four additional employers not exceeding a total population of 500,000 benefit eligible employees.

Buck’s decision to focus on larger employers is mainly a cost-efficiency measure, according to Bockhorst who says the cost to deploy health care to a client is just so great it makes sense for them to limit based on size. Aon Hewitt, Towers Watson and Mercer are three of the biggest names in the business that have entered the private exchange realm. All companies allow employers with 100 employees or more to be a part of the networks.

Also this week, Liazon announced it was partnering with web-based Simplee to provide Liazon’s private benefits exchange with a health care expense management platform intended to grant both ease of selection and tracking and management of expenses throughout the year. The Bright Choices Exchange, Liazon’s flagship product, offers customizable packages with offerings of health, dental, vision, life, disability and other benefits.

With the integration of Simplee, Liazon aims to give its users access to “an online medical expense management system,” the company says, which should enable them to follow, review and pay claims and bills related to their health and other benefits package.

“Our goal with Bright Choices is to help employees select and use their benefits more efficiently,” says Alan Cohen, chief strategy officer at Liazon. “Simplee is a critical element that helps people access and organize information about their benefits to get the most out of their health care dollars.”

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