About 30 million people – or one in every five Americans – will use a health insurance exchange by 2017  under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or Obamacare. This is according to a research by global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing firm Accenture, which forecasts that such phenomenon will radically transform the country’s health insurance landscape.

More overwhelming than the number of individuals projected to use health insurance exchanges to cater to their medical and wellness needs, however, is the apparent lack of awareness and preparedness of many Americans. The study shows that the lack of awareness applies to all demographics and to both public and private exchange concepts, as shown by its survey of 20,000 consumers.

Personalized Insurance Shopping Experience

A health insurance exchange in Obamacare’s context is a marketplace with competing providers where consumers can select plans of their choice. Public health exchanges are managed by public entities, while private exchanges are maintained by private companies. As with other public transactions, using public exchanges means navigating through government channels. With private exchanges, consumers can do business through an agent with whom they feel comfortable working and sharing information.

While public exchanges may have the advantage of tax credits over private exchanges, Accenture’s study forecasts that more consumers will be using private exchanges as early as 2018. The study reveals that consumers are likely to welcome private exchanges for their flexibility, range of choices and personalized shopping experience.

A private health exchange often includes a choice among at least two major medical health plans with health insurance advice and recommendation support. Billing is automatic and support should be on-going. If a consumer works for a private company, he or she can rely on the employer to pay for the coverage. For those who are not covered under a group plan at work or who are self-employed, they will have to shoulder the payment.

Private Exchanges to Dominate the Market by 2018

Millions of Americans are expected to start enrolling in public exchanges on October 1st. Only about 1 million consumers will enroll in private exchanges within 2013, but the study anticipates this number to quickly grow to about 40 million by 2018 – even higher than the estimated 31 million consumers that will enroll in public exchanges in the same period. The rapid growth will make private exchanges the dominant option in the next five years, accounting for 56 percent of the total exchange market.

The shift in consumer behavior when it comes to using private exchanges will change the health insurance landscape, where consumers are able to “shop” for their own health benefits. This means that –  more than ever – they will need to have a full understanding of their options and decisions.

Broad Reach Benefits provides our clients with access to a private exchange.  To learn more about how private health insurance exchanges work and their impact on your companies health plans contact any of the Broad Reach Benefit team.