Insurance Consulting Firm Setting Up Health Insurance Exchange

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill.—Aon Hewitt Inc. is developing a health care exchange that would enable employers to offer employees an array of plans provided by participating insurers.

By using the exchange, employers would be relieved of the time and expense of choosing health insurers and administering their plans, while employees would have a broader choice of health plans, explained Ken Sperling, global health and benefits practice leader in Aon Hewitt’s Norwalk, Conn., office.

“Employers wouldn’t have to worry about bids or plan administration,” Mr. Sperling notes. Instead, the employer’s only role would be deciding how much of the premium it would pay for each option.

Several options Insurers would offer identical plans with five different levels of benefits, including three high-deductible plans that could be linked with health savings accounts and another whose benefit coverage would resemble that of a traditional preferred provider organization plan. Premiums initially would be set on an employer-by-employer basis.

Mr. Sperling said the program is geared toward employers with at least 1,000 employees, adding, though, that Aon Hewitt has received interest in the exchange concept from employers of various sizes and industries. For insurers, the exchange concept offers the potential of tapping a much larger market. Earlier program

The exchange, which Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Aon Hewitt hopes to launch in 2012, would be an extension of a retiree medical exchange program it now administers and through which about 50 insurers offer coverage to 2.4 million retirees and dependents. The average participant has access to 32 medical plan and 23 prescription drug plan choices, an Aon Hewitt spokesman said. About 200 employers participate in that program.