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Private exchanges are gaining popularity--but slowly


Companies are shifting ownership of health benefits to their employees through private health insurance exchanges--but at a slower rate than some predicted, according to a recent survey from Bswift. 

After surveying about 500 benefits decision makers at companies with at least 50 employees, Bswift, an insurance exchange company that's owned by insurer Aetna, found that just 5 percent of large employers currently offer a private exchange for their employees, and only 6 percent are considering one for next year.

"There has been a lot of debate about whether or not employers are moving en masse to a radical new private exchange model," Bswift CEO Rich Gallun said in a statement. "The bottom line is that they are incrementally shifting ownership of the benefits spend to their employees."

Despite news that private exchanges are increasingly popular, including experts predicting they'll see 300 percent growth this year and that the exchanges will continue growing through 2018, as FierceHealthPayer has reported, the survey proves otherwise.

Bswift suggests that's partly because there is no standard definition for "private exchange." Plus, most companies aren't completely replacing their current benefits program. They're instead taking a slow, phased approach to incorporating exchange components.

Meanwhile, the survey also found that employers are giving their workers more "skin in the game" with their increased wellness program incentives.

In fact, 40 percent of large employer respondents with wellness programs said they offer annual incentives of $500 or more, a 29 percent increase from 2013. They're also using social tools, including fitness challenges, more often to engage employees in their wellness programs.

To learn more:
- here's the Bswift statement and survey

Related Articles:
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Private exchanges must adjust amid slow growth
Experts predict private exchanges could see 300% growth this year