Brown says private exchanges appeal to small- and medium-sized businesses that have relatively high revenue and well-compensated employees. "The private exchange gets more depth with the group… low-revenue companies may not have the funding to do defined contribution."
Low-revenue companies and small business employees who have never had health insurance are often better served pursuing coverage options on the new public exchanges, Brown said.
Under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, individuals and businesses may purchase health insurance policies on public exchanges in all 50 states. With the open enrollment period for 2014 now closed, federal officials say more than 8 million people have signed up. The Small Business Health Options Program public exchanges for group coverage are launching at a slower pace, with growth expected to accelerate in 2015.
"We do have a few groups that have already purchased through the SHOP," Brown says of Highmark's participation in the public exchange for group coverage. "There are different groups that will have more opportunities in the SHOP than a private exchange."