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NEWS - Benefit Firms Create Tremors for Insurers in U.S. Healthcare Shakeup

September 20, 2013 – American companies are sending shockwaves through the healthcare industry by moving a rapidly growing number of employees onto privately run online exchanges for their medical coverage.

In a business already bracing for major change because of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms, the decisions are threatening to shift more power in the market to the benefit consulting firms opening many of the exchanges.

Health insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers who have traditionally had a more direct relationship with the employers could lose out to the nascent marketplaces.

“It’s important to the insurance companies to sell through the private exchanges to maintain their biggest customers,” said Mike Nugent, managing director of the healthcare practice at business consulting firm Navigant Consulting.

He said that if the pharmacy benefit managers and others “do not deliver the savings, they will not get paid and that will be the ripple effect.”

The exchanges received their biggest boost yet when Aon Plc insurance broker said on Wednesday it signed up 18 companies to participate in its Aon Hewitt Corporate Health Exchange, including the country’s largest drug store operator Walgreen Co, resulting in coverage for an estimated 600,000 people next year.

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