Insurance Exchange Enablement Heats Up as the Clock Ticks Down

SEP 20

Today’s news that Wellpoint and two other Blues (HCSC and BCSB MI) acquired a 78% stake in Health Insurance Exchange vendor Bloom Health is not the first – and won’t be the last – move in what is sure to be a consolidating market.

The Accountable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) requires each state to establish an online shopping portal, known as a Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) for individuals and small groups to purchase health insurance no later than January 1 2014. We have written and blogged extensively on the topic. In our estimates, HHS and the states will need to spend in the neighborhood of $4-$6 billion dollars on technologies order to create these exchanges. In addition to the ACA HIX, there is perhaps a bigger market opportunity in the private sector to create non-government sponsored insurance exchanges, creating even a bigger market opportunity. Bloom Health is one of many vendors specializing in the private exchange market.

Wellpoint, the Blues, and in fact all health insurance companies are making the individual and small group markets a top priority for new business and growth initiatives. These markets will explode in growth due to the Obamacare legislation and the carriers recognize the opportunity and the challenge with tapping this market.

The insurance exchanges, both public and private, will be the primary vehicles to reach into the individual and small group markets. Wellpoint’s move on Bloom, and Optum’s acquisition of Connextions, is recognition of this fact.

In addition to the Connextions and Bloom transactions, the vendor community is also coming together to help create insurance exchanges. Accenture’s acquisition of Duck Creek, announced partnerships from Oracle, Microsoft, CSC and others such as Maximus’ partnership with Connecture, portend of additional transactions to come in the space.

Insurance companies need help in positioning into the individual market, and also need technology to help them more effectively participate in the public and private exchanges.  Several vendors are positioning into the market but only a few have broad, proven experience with exchanges.

Companies like eHealth and Extend Health, which have consumer engagement and online shopping capabilities from market adjacencies (a leading online brokerage for eHealth and a robust Medicare exchange from Extend) will be important players in the new world of insurance exchanges. Other players like DestinationRx are similarly active in the exchange marketplace, working with HHS and multiple insurance plans, and will have a meaningful impact on the public and private HIX marketplace.  These vendors already have a head start in exchange operations, plan comparison features and tools to help consumers sort through the confusing world of insurance costs and coverage.

TripleTree’s recent HIX research report lays out a number of vendors that are currently engaged in HIX solutions. The report concludes that no vendor provides a complete solution.  Given the importance of the exchanges and the immediate market opportunity, no doubt consolidation will continue.

Have a good week.

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Scott Donahue