Employers considering private health care exchanges should leave themselves plenty of time to make the switch, say two employers who’ve made the move in recent years.

Church & Dwight Co., a consumer packaged-goods company best-known for its Arm & Hammer brand, moved employees to a private exchange run by Buck Consultants, a Xerox Company, last year. Miller-Valentine Group, a commercial real estate company with operations in 22 states, moved employees to Liazon’s exchange last year. Representatives from both companies spoke recently at EBN’s Private Healthcare Exchanges conference in New York City.

“Don’t decide to do this on May 1 and expect to launch the following January,” cautioned Jim Levine, director of compensation and benefits for Church & Dwight Co. “That’s very aggressive. We did it, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Also see: Going beyond Amazon: Making consumerism work on private exchanges

Church & Dwight moved from a single consumer-directed health plan to the exchange, where employees can now choose among the CDHP and two PPO plans. The company also changed pharmacy benefit managers and added a number of ancillary benefits.

Managing so many vendors was “a challenge,” said Levine. “It was more work than we anticipated and [we had] less time to do it.” Since moving employees to the exchange, claims have decreased 11%. “Employees have saved money as well,” said Levine. “I’m a major proponent [of the exchange] and our CFO is a major proponent.”

Employees at Miller-Valentine, meanwhile, expressed increased satisfaction with their benefits since the move to the exchange, with 79% saying they are satisfied with the changes. Employees also said “they understood their benefits better and have a better understanding of the company contribution [to benefits],” said Karen Fillback, HR specialist with Miller-Valentine Group. “This was a great strategy for us.”

Still, the implementation process was not without challenges. “Our broker was not well-versed in exchanges. It was a learning process for us as a team,” said Fillback. “But there was the trust factor with our broker.”

The biggest challenge, she said, was determining the company contribution toward benefits, given that the company provides a wide range of wages. “We put [the contribution] in three tiers and the platform needed to accommodate that,” she said.

Also see: Self-insured employers wary about private exchanges

Having recently finished the second open enrollment on the exchange, Fillback said this year’s open enrollment focused more on showing employees “the educational tools related to the exchange itself. That has paid off with our pricing with our carriers. Our associates have a better understanding of their health care and our claims have gone down as well because they have a better understanding.”

Miller-Valentine has budgeted for its defined contribution to remain the same for the next three years. Moving forward, the company plans to devote more time to wellness to keep experience ratings down, said Fillback.

For Church & Dwight, this year’s open enrollment “was way easier than last year’s,” said Levine. “It’s not more work now, it’s just different work. It’s working with more vendors and working on wellness and consumerism, as opposed to plan design.”

The company recently added Castlight, an online health care cost transparency tool, to its suite of benefit offerings to drive employees to become better health care consumers.

Also see: Private exchange adoption could catch many by surprise

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