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HealthPass NY- Lessons Learned by a Successful Exchange

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HealthPass is a private, nonprofit, multi-carrier health insurance exchange in the New York City metropolitan area small group market. It insures, nearly 3,300 businesses with about 30,000 employees and dependents. In achieving those numbers, HealthPass learned several important lessons. Mark Kessler, Director, Strategic Initiatives for HealthPass shared some of those hard-learned lessons when he participated in forum on how to best implement the SHOP Exchange in California sponsored by The California Endowment and the California Small Business Majority on January 11, 2012. We have gathered some of Mr. Kessler’s comments here.

On Launching the Exchange The first year of the Exchange is very important because it is going to establish a risk profile that is very hard to change. Creating a good mix and diversity of enrolled individuals is very important in the first year. Focus your message on reaching a broad number of small businesses to make sure your exchange mix and risk is stable”.

On Using Brokers “HealthPass New York did not try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to marketing. It is significantly more efficient and effective to leverage existing productive systems than to develop new ones that must compete with the old. In other words, it is important to use sources of information that small business owners trust, like brokers, when trying to reach a large, diverse and scattered population like small business owners. The Exchange must compete very aggressively in the marketplace. HealthPass New York, which markets itself equally to insured and uninsured small businesses, knows brokers are a powerful way to reach small business owners. Most of its marketing is aimed at brokers. We attend broker events, publish broker publications, and have dedicated broker support relationship managers.

On Price “HealthPass New York openly says their prices are the same if not slightly higher, but says they address the hidden costs of health insurance like the time a small business owner spends choosing a product and working with employees on claims, enrollment and deciphering the material. We tell them those are all drags on your time. If you had that time free, what would you do with it? Those are the costs we can remove immediately.”

On Choice “HealthPass New York’s research shows that it is more important to the employer than the employee. Employers are happy to not have the pressure of choosing one or two plans for their employees. While this is less important for employees, they do enjoy having options.”

On Diversity “New York is very diverse and HealthPass relies on brokers to reach minority small business owners. We haven’t found a community that we couldn’t reach that way.”

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