D.C. partners with Mass. to sell employee benefits through government website

District of Columbia expands its efforts that require employers to purchase employee health insurance through the government through a partnership with Massachusetts.

The following is a statement from D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority:

Massachusetts Health Connector and DC Health Link Create a First-in-the-Nation Partnership

Through a unique partnership with the Washington, D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority (DCHBX), the Massachusetts Health Connector will make it easier for small businesses to provide health insurance to employees with easy-to-manage options for plan choice through the new Health Connector for Small Business.

The Health Connector Board of Directors approved a first-in-the-nation collaboration with DCHBX, which manages and operates DC Health Link, the online health insurance marketplace in the District of Columbia. Through this partnership, starting this fall the Health Connector will use a separate branch of DC Health Link’s existing online platform to improve available offerings to small businesses and their employees – including the ability for employees to potentially select their own plan from a range of choices – while reducing long-term operational costs for the small-group online system.

“Providing employers with new affordable Health Connector options is an important component of our Massachusetts insurance market reforms,” said Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services and Chair of the Health Connector Board of Directors. “Small employers will have an option available to offer their employees which can simplify the administration of health insurance and reduce their costs.”

“This collaboration with DC Health Link creates an affordable, sustainable option with end-to-end service for brokers, business owners and employees, and incorporates a stable technology platform that is proven to work for small businesses,” said Louis Gutierrez, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Health Connector. “Leveraging this existing solution will make it easier for Massachusetts’ small businesses to access the plans offered by the Health Connector, and expand product offerings with more choices for employers and employees, and online shopping for small-group dental coverage.”

“This partnership further enhances DC Health Link, a transparent and competitive on-line health insurance marketplace for small businesses,” said Diane Lewis, Chair of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority Executive Board.

“We will be able to add new on-line tools and invest in new technology improvements, while cutting operational costs,” said Mila Kofman, the Executive Director of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority.

DC Health Link small-group platform currently serves more than 65,000 people. The Health Connector will use the existing technology, with adjustments made to reflect the Health Connector and include plan and premium information for Massachusetts plans. Implementing the new technology will cost $4 million, funded by existing grants. It enables DC Health Link to leverage its cloud-based, agile, open-source technology to bring new consumer-facing enhancements to the market that will benefit both DC and Massachusetts small businesses, while creating a solution architecture that presents the potential for expansion to other products or lines of business.

In 2016, DC Health Link received an AWS City on a Cloud Best Practices Award for Innovation for its cloud-based agile open source solution. And in January 2017, the Clear Choices Campaign ranked DC Health Link Number 1 among state marketplaces and the federal marketplace for online comparison shopping experience.

With the expanded capability of DC Health Link, Health Connector for Small Business will provide two flexible options for employers: Small Business Employee Express and Small Business Employee Choice.

Small Business Employee Express will be an improved version of the Health Connector’s current small-group system, where an employer selects one plan for his employees and manages the amount of premium paid by the business and by the employee.

Through Small Business Employee Choice, business owners can choose between different options for employees to select their own plan, after employers set the amount of premium covered by the business. Employees would then be able to pick a plan on a particular metallic tier, such as all Silver plans offered by the Health Connector, or they could pick any plan in any tier offered by a specific carrier through the Health Connector.

The new platform will benefit employers by allowing employees to pick the best plan to meet their needs; allowing employers to predict their own costs year-over-year; and enhancing competitive dynamics between carriers in the group market by promoting the “brand breaking” shopping behavior exhibited by individual Exchange shoppers. Through the new Employee Choice model, small employers and their employees will be able to find plans with comparable benefit richness to the average small-group plan but with options that can cost approximately 30 percent less.

The Massachusetts Health Connector is the Commonwealth’s state-based Marketplace; the only place qualifying residents can find financial help accessing health insurance. There are approximately 240,000 people in health coverage through the Health Connector, with an additional 6,100 receiving coverage through the Health Connector’s small-group Exchange. Residents and businesses can learn more about the Health Connector and accessing coverage at MAhealthconnector.org.

The DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority is a public-private partnership established to develop and operate DC Health Link — the online health insurance marketplace for District of Columbia’s residents and small businesses. Since opening for business on October 1, 2013, DC Health Link has served more than 300,000 people enrolled in private individual health plans, small group health plans, or Medicaid. DC’s uninsured rate has been cut in half and DC ranks in the top 3 states with the lowest rate of uninsured. DC Health Link currently serves more than 65,000 people enrolled in group coverage (including Congress) and is online at DCHealthLink.com.

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