EyeMed and VSP Vision Care Plans Join Mercer Marketplace Private Insurance Exchange

NEW YORK— EyeMed Vision Care and VSP Vision Care are among the latest insurers to join Mercer Marketplace, a private insurance exchange being launched by Mercer L.L.C. offering more than 20 types of benefits. Introduced January 2013, the Mercer exchange will have an open enrollment this fall with the first policies going into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

“Private employers and insurers are flocking to the concept of offering their workers benefits via online marketplaces,” according to an April 15, 2013 Forbes article. Mercer research shows 56 percent of employers are considering a private exchange for providing benefits to active employees or retirees, a number that has tripled in the last year, according to an infographic on the Mercer/Think blog.

Among this wave of private insurance exchanges, which operate much like the public exchanges that states are establishing as a result of the Affordable Care Act, Mercer Marketplace includes not only traditional benefits such as medical and vision, but it also includes voluntary benefits that employees have paid for themselves in the past, such as accident and even pet insurance.

“Employers will be able to offer their employees a one-stop destination for the purchase of all their benefits and insurance needs,” said Sharon Cunninghis, a senior partner and North America leader of Mercer’s health and benefits business. Mercer Marketplace allows employers to contribute a defined amount of money to employees to choose from a wide range of pre-screened benefits from multiple instruments providers. On the health insurance side, employers can decide how much they want to contribute toward health insurance, with employees using the premium contributions to purchase coverage through the exchange.

John W. Lahr, OD, FAAO, EyeMed’s VP, provider relations and medical director, told VMail that his organization is involved in or is in discussions with “pretty much all” of the firms establishing private insurance exchanges. “The early read from consulting firms like Mercer and Aon Hewitt [which launched an exchange last year] is that they have big employers that like the concept,” he said and predicted, “What you’re going to see will be more people who have coverage and more people who will be seeking preventive care as well as needed care for both acute and chronic conditions.” Still, he added that the actual outcome remains to be seen. “It will be interesting to see how many stay the course. I don’t think anybody knows.”

On both the Aon Hewitt and Mercer Marketplace exchanges, “VSP Vision Care is working and in discussions with several private exchanges, both on a national and regional level,” a VSP spokesperson told VMail. “This allows VSP network doctors to remain connected with their patients as the marketplace shifts.”