Six million Americans used a private insurance exchange to enroll in employer benefits programs for 2015, according to a new report from Accenture. That's double the number of 2014 enrollees--and it's a growth rate that the consultancy expects to continue into 2018.
Two limitations on the growth of private exchanges continue to erode, Accenture said. First, industry moves such as Aetna's acquisition of Bswift should help reduce the capacity constraints that have limited large-scale rollouts. Second, insurance exchange providers now develop more specialized products to address the fact that no new large employer customers signed on for the 2015 enrollment period.
The consultancy expects private exchanges to enroll 12 million employees in 2016, 22 million in 2017 and 40 million in 2018. Previous research from the Kaiser Family Foundation projected that 40 million Americans will use private exchanges. That amounts to roughly 25 percent of the overall adult American workforce and will surpass the number of Americans using public insurance exchanges, which reached roughly 11.7 million for the 2015 enrollment period.
"We remain optimistic that several factors will catalyze enrollment growth in private health insurance exchanges through 2018, Rich Birhanzel, managing director for Accenture Health Administration Services, said in a statement. "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."
The factors that will contribute to the accelerated growth of private exchanges include the exchanges' ability to help small businesses cope with the employer mandate, the Cadillac tax and Affordable Care Act compliance reports, Accenture said. The tepid response to the Small Business Health Options Program could also attract firms to private insurance exchanges, according to the Washington Post.
Firms that migrate to a private insurance exchange can see big savings--Sears saved $38 million in the first year that its employees enrolled in insurance using a private exchange, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.
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