17 private exchange leaders shaping the future of health care
Private benefit exchanges expect massive growth in the next few years. Listed in alphabetical order, these executives from all parts of the industry are leaders in the space, forecasting trends and serving as ushers for what some are calling a new era of health care.

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Sherri Bockhorst
Managing Director, Exchange Solutions, Towers Watson

Bockhorst is experienced across multiple exchange environments. She began in Towers Watson’s health and group benefits consulting practice, and then led the launch of Buck Consultants at Xerox’s private exchange. She is now back at Towers Watson.

Bockhorst focuses on driving innovation in the private exchange market for active employees. Given her long industry experience, not only has she been a leader in the development of the exchange industry, but she also brings deep knowledge and expertise in employee benefit strategy, health care delivery and consumer engagement.

“Private exchanges are still in rapid development —not just on the technology side, but also in understanding of what employers and employees want and need,” Bockhorst says. “What kind of choices do employees want to see and what do they ultimately select? How much decision support do they need, when, and how much of it do they want from decision support tools versus live phone help? Can post-enrollment tools and services help make coverage utilization more effective? As an industry, we are still figuring out what the right balance is. And what we’re finding is that it varies as much from employer to employer as it does from individual to individual, so having a flexibly, agile exchange is a key factor.”

For more from Bockhorst: "Employers share private exchange successes."
Scott Brown
Private Exchange Offering Lead, Accenture

Brown has more than a decade of consulting and health industry experience. Prior to his private exchange work, he managed a broad range of consulting engagements, including sales and distribution strategies, product introductions, and operating model designs.

"Several factors will catalyze enrollment growth in private health insurance exchanges through 2018,” says Brown. “This is especially true as the market matures, employers gain more control of benefit design and evidence continues mounting on the tangible benefits of the model."

For more from Brown: "Private benefit exchanges face challenges on backend systems."
Sharon Cunninghis
Global Leader, Mercer Marketplace

Mercer saw a 43% increase in total covered lives on its active exchange, covering an anticipated 1.5 million lives in 2015.

Cunninghis is an actuary and senior partner at Mercer. In addition to her business responsibilities, Cunninghis has developed innovative products and programs in the U.S. and globally and also works with a number of Mercer's key clients.

“The unique design and flexibility of Mercer Marketplace is helping companies solve the complex challenges of an increasingly difficult health care environment and also making a real difference in people’s lives,” Cunninghis says. “The entire solution … is truly helping more and more people make better benefit and insurance choices for their specific needs.”

For more from Cunninghis: "Private exchange enrollment doubles for plan year 2015."
Mike Christie
Health Exchanges Market Leader, Aon Hewitt

Aon Hewitt is a fully-insured private exchange for large employers — and employers ranging from Darden Restaurants to Sears Holding have moved to its exchange.

Christie directs overall market development strategy and leads a team of experts in developing client-focused private exchange solutions.

“Private health exchanges have the potential to change the way health care is delivered in the U.S. by providing employees with more choice and transparency and enabling companies to break away from cost trends that have forced them to increase employee contributions and decrease benefit value over the past decade,” Christie says.

For more from Christie: "The door is open for moving pre-65 retirees to public exchanges."
Paul Fronstin
Director, Health Research & Education Program, Employee Benefit Research Institute

Fronstin is a senior research associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to original public policy research and education on economic security and employee benefits. He is also Director of the Institute's Health Research and Education Program, and oversees the Center for Research on Health Benefits Innovation. He has been with EBRI since 1993.

“Adoption is low at this point but interest is very high. We've never really asked workers to be consumers of health insurance when it comes to choosing their health plan,” Fronstin says. “When workers have a choice of health plans—typically two, maybe three, choices, which isn't a lot of choices—there's not much of a shopping experience. Will increased choice be positive for consumers? It’s so new we don’t have answers yet. Because health exchanges are so new and mostly untested there are still a lot of unknowns about how they work.”

For more from Fronstin: "Transition to private exchanges could be easier than expected."
Don Garlitz
Senior Vice President, bswift

Prior to joining bswift, Garlitz co-authored the white paper used by Utah’s legislative leadership as an outline for the creation of the Utah Health Exchange’s multi-carrier, employee-choice small business exchange, which was established prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act. He received a formal commendation from Utah Governor Gary Herbert for outstanding work as a health reform consultant to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Garlitz leads carrier partner efforts for bswift and contributes to the development of consumer-facing technology, including bswift’s decision support tool. In November 2014, bswift was acquired by Aetna for approximately $400 million.

“There is grey area in what private exchange means, likely because there is no standardized definition and many employers are taking a phased approach to the adoption of exchange components,” Garlitz says.

For more from Garlitz: "Obstacles remain in private benefit exchange development."
Barbara Gniewek
Principal, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP is a key part of the Private Exchange Evaluation Collaborative is comprised of independent coalitions representing employer health care interests — together with PwC, which provides consultative health care services but will not launch a private exchange. Gniewek is a key member of the collaborative.

Gniewek is a principal in PwC's Human Resource Services practice specializing in health care across all constituents: employers, payers and providers.

“While private exchanges were initially focused on the demand side of health care – building personal accountability through innovative tools, incentives and plan design, they are expanding to focus on the supply side, initially through network alternatives,” Gniewek says. “This is especially exciting as we can begin to tackle health care from both a volume and unit cost basis. Giving people the information to make better health decisions, and working with more efficient and high quality providers will have a positive impact on health care costs.”

For more from Gniewek: "In a private benefit exchange, what makes consumers buy?"
Rob Harkins
Practice Leader, Private Exchanges, National Human Capital Practice, Willis Group

Harkins leads the Willis initiative for private exchanges, bringing his exchange expertise to Willis clients and consultants. He has an operational background across many health benefit disciplines, including provider relations, contracting and medical management.

“A private exchange is the ideal solution for employers that helps people navigate choices, evaluate options and ‘right-size’ their benefits,” Harkins says. “When people are provided money to spend on benefits and multiple plan options exist — in conjunction with a robust decision-support tool that helps them evaluate choices — they behave differently. By becoming more educated benefits consumers, people behave more efficiently and buy only those plans that they need.”

For more from Harkins: "Self-managed plans vs. private exchanges: What's the future?"
Don King
VP, Compensation and Benefits, Envision Healthcare

King joined EmCare in November 1997. In his current role at Envision Healthcare, he is responsible for the strategy, implementation and execution of all employee benefit and compensation programs throughout the organization.

“There’s a philosophical shift I see occurring in the marketplace that is a question for each organization, and the question is: Are the medical plans we offer creating a strategic differentiator in the industry we are in, as well as among the workforce that we have?,” King told Employee Benefit News earlier this year. “When I looked at what we were offering, our designs were not that unique.”

For more from King: "5 ways to determine which private benefit exchange is right for you."
Danielle Kirgan
Chief Human Resources Officer, Darden Restaurants

Darden was one of the first employers to move to a private exchange, seen as a test of the market. Kirgan led that move.

Kirgan became chief human resources officer for Darden Restaurants in January 2015. The company owns and operates Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and numerous other restaurants. A member of Darden’s executive team, she leads the development of Darden’s people strategy as well as building organizational capability and employee culture to further enable Darden’s growth.

“We made the move to a [private exchange] based on feedback from our full-time employees that they were interested in having multiple health care options,” a Darden spokesperson says. “Our employees have benefited by having a wider variety of healthcare benefit choices from multiple carriers at very competitive rates.”

For more from Darden: "The year in exchanges: Where private exchanges go from here."
Scott Rabin
National Practice Leader, Health Exchange Solutions, Buck Consultants at Xerox

Companies using Buck Consultant’s exchange, RightOpt, saw an average year-over-year decrease in claim cost per employee of 3.7%, less than national average increase of 5% to 8%.

Rabin is responsible for all aspects of RightOpt. In addition, he works closely with Buck’s sister companies within Xerox to leverage his deep experience across the health care ecosystem.

“When designed and delivered effectively, private exchanges can be [a] significant driver of health care consumerism, quality and value in the market,” Rabin says. “We, as employers, have an opportunity to transform health care delivery, and we should not waste it.”

For more from Buck: "6 questions to consider when selecting a private exchange."
Matthew Rae
Senior Policy Analyst, Health Care Marketplace Project, Kaiser Family Foundation

The Health Care Marketplace Project at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, provides information, research, and analysis about trends in the health care market and policy proposals that related to the private insurance system.

Rae graduated with a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in addition to a Master of Public Health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Prior to joining the Kaiser Foundation, he worked at the Government Accountability Office, Small Business Services within the City of New York, the Service Employees International Union and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.

“While private exchanges continue to have potential to drastically remake the employer market, as of now much of that potential remains unrealized,” Rae says.

For more from KFF: "5 changes to the health care landscape."
Jonathan Rickert
CEO, Array Health

Array’s platform is built for health insurers, to provide a branded private exchange solution. Array also is a member of the Private Exchange Coalition, a forum for those in the industry to share ideas and best practices, and increase awareness of private exchanges

Long before health care reform, Rickert realized the one-size-fits-all approach to employer-sponsored benefits wasn’t working well for employers or employees, the company states. He co-founded Array Health in 2006, which focuses on bringing an e-commerce experience to health care.

“The data is in: insurer-led private exchanges are reducing costs for both insurers and employers,” Rickert says.

For more from Rickert: "Exchanges give voluntary benefits a boost."
Mike Smith
Director of Exchange Solutions, Lockton Benefits Group

Smith has 25-plus years’ experience with employee benefits strategy, underwriting, technology, administration and compliance.

“Every employer comes at the question of, ‘Do we need an exchange?’ from a different angle. At Lockton, we have the luxury of looking at those angles through an unbiased lens and years of experience so we can truly assist employers with achieving their goals and addressing the problems they’re trying to solve,” Smith says. “Is the employer hoping to add more choice to their benefits lineup? Are they hoping to save money? Is the employer concerned about employee engagement? Depending on the real issues at hand, we consult on the best solution for each employer based on their unique business.”

For more from Smith: "A 'cynical' look at private exchanges."
Thomas Sondergeld
Vice President, Global Benefits and Mobility, Walgreens Boots Alliance

The Society for Human Resource Management has called Sondergeld a “trendsetter in benefits innovation.” Walgreens was one of the largest and first retailers to move its active population to an exchange. Sondergeld frequently talks at industry conferences about the move.

Sondergeld has directed employee benefits for more than 20 years and led a successful implementation of both Hewitt Associates/Aon Corporation and Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s wellness programs and onsite health centers/services.

“By utilizing a corporate health exchange, we can offer better health coverage options to our team members and make us a more attractive employer,” Sondergeld says. “With our diverse workforce of more than 240,000 employees across all 50 states and representing nearly every demographic, we’re giving our employees the flexibility to choose the health care plan that works best for them and their families.”

For more from Sondergeld: "Why Walgreens moved to a private exchange."
Ashok Subramanian
CEO, Liazon
Managing Director, Towers Watson’s group exchange

Liazon won the Summer/Fall 2014 Web Health Award for its private exchange in the “Web-based Resource/Tool” category. The awards, run by the Health Information Resource Center, recognize the nation’s best digital health resources.

Subramanian founded Liazon in 2007, which was acquired in 2013 by Towers Watson for $215 Million.

“We’ve spent the last few years talking about how exchanges are the future of employee benefits — but at this point, they’re really ‘the now’ of employee benefits,” Subramanian says.

For more from Subramanian: "The year in exchanges: Where private exchanges go from here."
Troy R. Underwood
Founder and CEO, benefitsCONNECT

Underwood has a talent for finding technology solutions for business problems. As CEO of benefitsCONNECT, Underwood has led his team to deliver a benefits administration and online enrollment solution. Today, he strategizes with the product and development teams to create software for ACA compliance and employee engagement, as well as solutions to optimize system capabilities for superior performance.

“In the wake of Obamacare and the roll out of public exchanges, our industry followed pursuit to introduce the concept of private exchanges. When you take a deeper look into the mechanics and marketing, a private exchange is simply a benefits administration solution with enhanced consumer engagement, educational tools and purchasing choice,” Underwood says. “In actuality, a true private exchange would require carrier underwriting guidelines, which prohibit an arbitrary product on an enrollment platform. With this acknowledgement, brokers and employers can work together to implement a technology platform that will provide the best of an exchange-like environment. Our discussions and dialogue should focus on the next generation of benefits administration. How can we develop brilliant tools to support the critical needs for today’s employers."

For more from benefitsCONNECT: "The Private Benefit Exchange Index."