Consumer shopping has been revolutionized by online retail behemoths like Amazon and eBay. The individual insurance market has been revolutionized by the introduction of the health insurance marketplace. But when it comes to employer group benefit delivery, little has changed from the tried and true traditional process.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Montana are working to change that by implementing a relatively new concept designed to bring this shopping experience to employee benefits: the private exchange.
That concept of private exchanges brings many of the principles of online shopping to the selection of employer-sponsored benefits. Many technology companies, consultants, and insurers have begun to introduce private exchanges to the marketplace – each with their own value-proposition and technological platforms. Blue Directionsâ„ , a BCBS sponsored private exchange, is available in Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and coming to Montana in mid-2015.
A New Way to Choose Benefits
A key component of a private exchange is Defined Contribution (DC). This allows employers to commit a flat-dollar amount of money to each employee for coverage. The employee then uses this money to purchase benefits unique to their needs and pays for the difference in cost. Defined Contribution promotes both increased transparency and choice.
Employees in these states can now choose from up to five (5) different BCBS health plans during enrollment. This may include PPOs, HMOs, and qualified consumer-driven health plans (CDHP).
Blue Directions allows employees to compare these plans side-by-side and filter them by network, deductible and premium to find a plan that fits their unique needs. They will see exactly how much their employer will contribute and how much they will need to pay out of pocket.
Blue Directions is not limited to health benefits. The solution can also support specialty coverages like dental, vision, life and disability products.
Education & Support
As if selecting benefits wasn’t confusing enough, many employees find additional choices of all shapes and sizes difficult to understand. This is why Blue Directions provides ongoing education and support for making these decisions.
Prior to the start of open enrollment, employees can visit the member microsite that outlines what options are available in their state, how enrollment works and the advantages of being a Blue Cross and Blue Shield member.
During enrollment, employees can choose to take the Decision Support Survey. They will answer a set of pre-defined questions that identify benefit needs according to health, budget and risk adversity. Plans that are considered a “Great Match” will be presented to employees.
If a phone call is preferred, employees may also contact the call center for support during enrollment. They can speak to a licensed agent for benefit help or to complete their enrollment over the phone.
This functionality is available year round so employees that have qualifying life events (new dependent, marriage, etc) will be able to access the portal or call center to make their changes.
No More Paperwork
As Blue Directions aims to create a friendly employee experience, it also supports employers through the defined contribution benefit approach and online benefit administration system.
Paperwork and manual changes are a thing of the past. Employers will now be able to work through a secure online portal that allows them to:
- Manage employee information
- Review benefit elections
- Run ad hoc reports
- Add/terminate employee coverage
The benefit administration system connects with the BCBS company, specialty benefit carriers, preferred vendors and payroll systems to provided automated data feeds for coverage and eligibility. Employers can now manage all employee benefits in one place.
Learn more about Blue Directions today by visiting one of our state sites below: